Senses of Christmas

Dec 19, 2014 | 4 comments |

There’s a sticky note on the wall facing my desk. On it I’ve written the five senses–smell, taste, see, hear and feel–as a reminder to include sensory details in the scenes I write.

Christmas is perhaps the most sensory of Christian festivals. So in the spirit of the season, I give you the five senses of Christmas.

Christmas is when I…

Smell roasted chestnuts in London’s Covent Garden as a December afternoon slips into evening, and shop lights spill out across rain-soaked pavements.

Taste food special to this time of year. Marzipan icing on rich fruitcake, and Tech Guy’s avocado and crab starter at Christmas lunch.

See fairy lights twinkling in homes and offices which brighten the dark winter days.

Hear a girls’ choir singing “The Holly and the Ivy,” their treble voices echoing off the soaring stone arches of a Victorian church.

Feel the roundness of the orange in the toe of my stocking on Christmas morning, English Rose cuddled into the crook of my shoulder.

But Christmas is also about emotion, bringing memories funny and poignant.  

Like the Christmas the then three-year-old English Rose dropped an iron, Peter Rabbit garden ornament on her foot. After a trip to A&E determined the foot was bruised, not broken, tears were dried, and muttering about “that nasty rabbit” ensued. 

Or the last Christmas we shared with my dear mom. Her festive baking filled every tin I own and the freezer too, reminding me of her loving care long after her sudden passing.

Finally, Christmas is about remembering the holiday season isn’t always happy, and reaching out to someone in need.

At this season of light and love, I wish you peace, joy and hope.

Do you have a favorite Christmas memory or other holiday tradition?


  1. Sue Bavin

    Oh, we all have that post-it note with the senses reminder, don’t we?! You’re right, this time of year is especially rich in sensory terms. I made my mincemeat this morning and the kitchen smells fruity – lovely! I always have a Christmas candle as well.

    I love xmas lights too. Our tree has so many that my husband swears he has warned the RAF base on Anglesey not to be distracted by what might appear to be landing lights in Llandudno.

    Poor English Rose with her festive trip to Casualty. Love the thought of mutterings about “that nasty rabbit.” The only festive Casualty trip I’ve ever had involved slicing open a finger on a tin of cat food. Not very glamorous.

    All good wishes for Christmas to you, English Rose and Tech Guy xxx

    • Jen Gilroy

      All good wishes to you and your husband too, Sue. I’m impressed you make your own mincemeat. I’m afraid my mince pies come out of a box! Thanks for sharing your Christmas senses with me, and be careful when opening those cat food tins! xxx

  2. Heidi Vanstone

    Although I still have childhood memories that I cherish of long ago Christmases, I treasure the newer ones that we are developing as a family. Listening to the children’s squeals of delight as they see the presents under the tree, seeing their glowing eyes as they open anticipated gifts and holding them close in a family Christmas hug. Lounging around in our pajamas all day long is another tradition that we all enjoy. Those are the Christmas memories that are priceless to me.

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for sharing these special thoughts, Heidi. Your newer Christmas memories will be priceless to your children too, and those family Christmas hugs will keep them close as they grow into adulthood.


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