Holiness in our Midst: Session 111

Holiness in our Midst


Story Circle Prompt: What fragrance do you associate with Christmas? Why? 

As the holidays near, I think about the scent of fresh oranges, the fragrance that instantly transports me back to opening my first Christmas stockings. Our Santa knocked on the front door and hand-delivered those stockings to us kids— Janet, Janis (me), Jerry and Jill, aka the Pyle stairsteps— early on Christmas mornings. Our names were on the long red stockings that were filled with pungent oranges and ripe apples along with new “colors” (as we called Crayons), rolled up coloring books, and small wind-up toys. There was also a single candy cane. (Back then, I was equal parts greed and politeness. I would take my father aside several times a year and ask him if he had any sway with Santa, and could he persuade him to do something, PLEEZ, about the ratio of fruit to candy.) I learned later that Santa was Innie Handsaker, our land lady from the big farmhouse next door; she tucked a pillow in the suit she kept hidden in the attic. For our family, she would help keep the magic and mystery of the Christmas Spirit alive (at least until the fateful day the Big Kids on the Bus would burst my bubble about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy all in one afternoon). More than pine boughs, peppermint candy, or cinnamon cookies, the smell of citrus, which clung to my stocking even during the offseason, is my direct link to memories of Christmases past. 

What fragrance recalls Christmas for you?

NOTE: It was French author Marcel Proust who most beautifully brought to the world’s attention the fact that smells can trigger memories. In Remembrance of Things Past, his character, while nibbling on a madeleine, recalled that “the whole of Combray and of its surroundings… sprang into being, all from my cup of tea.”

Long before it was studied by scientists and named the “Proust Phenomenon,” the link between odors and memories was a real thing. Perhaps, even back at the first Christmas ever. I wonder every year if Mary, Mother of Jesus, kept a Box of Precious Things to recall the night that Christ was born. Maybe the box that the wise men brought with the scent of frankincense still lingering? Or a satchel with a swatch of swaddling clothes still smelling of hay? Did she sometimes duck into a stable to breathe in again the remembrance of the Holy Night? Some things to ponder….


  1. Read the above reflection. In your journal, answer the following: What scent evokes the holidays for you? Is there a story behind the memories?


 1.   Read aloud Session CXI.

  2.   Ask each person to answer the Story Circle Prompt.

[View Past Sessions Here]

Note: Holiness in Our MidstSharing Our Stories to Encourage and Heal is a monthly on-line feature created by Janis Pyle to facilitate sharing of our personal experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and spiritual practices with one another, especially through stories. Barriers are broken down when we begin to see all persons, even those with whom we disagree ideologically, as sacred and constantly attended to by a loving Creator. Each column is accompanied by a “story circle” prompt and study guides for personal and group reflection. To share your stories, contact Hannah Button-Harrison at communications@nplains.org. Janis Pyle can be reached at janispyle@yahoo.com.

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