The holiday season doesn’t just bring on lights and gifts. If you think about it and really pay attention, there are certain smells that remind us of Christmas. There are even some that are specific to the Philippines because of our traditions and culture. Allow me to list some, describe them, and talk about the different memories I have linked to these scents.
Salabat and bibingka
The smells of these Christmas essentials remind me of early mornings, specifically simbang gabi. This novena mass is something I grew up with. I remember attending with my family when I was grade school. Growing up, my mom and I carried the tradition and finished all nine days for a few years. Depending on where we heard mass, we were greeted with salabat and bibingka after the ceremony. The warmth and calming aroma was a great start to the Christmas season.
Just like these past few weeks, rain showers are common come December. Although these are less intense as the rainy season downpour, it drizzles just enough for the weather to become cool and you can even bust out some jackets. Aside from the actual rain, I love the smell of it. There was a time in high school where it got so cold that we left our classroom windows open and the smell of rain was so relaxing.
If you love paper smells, then you know why this is on my list. Whether it’s new or recycled, the scent of wrapping paper screams one thing: presents. I have so many memories linked to this, especially since I used to help my mom wrap gifts. I’m very particular when it comes to gift wrapping so I was happy to help. Lately, however, I have turned away from this tradition and put everything in paper bags, mainly because it’s easier. Perhaps I’ll start doing this again but with recycled materials.
Dusty Christmas decor
Nothing says Christmas like boxes and boxes of decorations that have come out of storage. I don’t know about your family, but in my house, decoration are abundant. There’s a Christmas tree, ornaments, stockings, Santa figurines, candy canes, and the list goes on. Before the house gets all dolled up, they have to be sorted from the boxes. Through the years, that old box smell has becomes so familiar. It reminds me of Christmas but I’m not a fan of the allergies that come with it.
Ham and queso de bola
Probably my favorite Filipino holiday snack is ham and queso de bola. Either on its own or with some warm pandesal. This combo reminds me so much of my lolo. The Christmas season in general makes me think of him, actually. Growing up, we would sit in the kitchen together just munching on queso de bola like there was no tomorrow. Okay, I’m craving for some now.
Art by Marian Hukom
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