While picking through the tightly-packed plastic bin of Christmas decorations in my parents’ basement, I just couldn’t put my finger on why I found it difficult to decide which housewarming holiday trinkets to bring back to school with me.
Of course I love the tiny wooden gingerbread man figurines and my miniature Christmas tree (complete with miniature ornaments) – and nothing feels better beneath my stocking feet than the handmade latch hook Santa rug my great-grandma made more than 20 years ago.
But even those beloved things didn’t send visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.
Then it hit me: I needed candles. That’s what was missing. All my favorite Christmas decorations involve candles.
Unfortunately, candles are Grade-A contraband at pretty much any college one attends.
Before you send Doug Zimmerman or Sue Majocka knocking at my door, let me explain that I know full well why. Candles do present a fire hazard, anywhere – especially in a high-rise building packed with teens and twentysomethings.
My olfactory system, though, doesn’t respond well to reason.
I smell a chocolate chip cookie and I help myself to not one, but a baker’s dozen. I catch a whiff of a freshly raked pile of leaves and yearn to be 7 again, when it was socially acceptable to roll around in them.
Although self-control keeps me from gaining 500 pounds or getting fatally poked in the eye by an acorn stem, I can’t help but feel an intense emotional connection to my sense of smell.
When I was digging around in our family’s stash of holiday décor, I twisted the lid off of our prized “Winter Wonderland” jar candle and was enveloped in the scent of Christmas pouring out.
It smelled like peppermint, just-out-of-the-oven coffee cake and a generous pinch of pine.
But their smell only scratches the surface of why I love Christmas candles so much.
Few things top the gentle glow of a flickering candle on a cold night. Try as they might, the flameless drugstore varieties just don’t pack the same punch with their little pointy plastic fame.
I scoff at their weak attempt.
We, as human beings, yearn for the comfort of warm fire to get us through a cold winter. It’s in our blood. Ever hear of a TV program called “The Yule Log?” In 1966, WPIX-TV in New York City began airing a two-hour loop of burning logs in a fireplace on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning as a gift to those living without fireplaces in tiny New York apartments.
The special was canceled in the early 1990s because the station couldn’t bear the cost of running the two-hour program without commercial interruption. However, a groundswell effort starting in March 2000 called the “Bring Back the Log Campaign” prompted the station to have a change of heart in 2001, when it began broadcasting a digitally restored version of the well-loved program.
The Yule Log has won the ratings in its time slot ever since. WPIX now even offers a “Portable Yule Log” downloadable movie on its website for travelers on the go.
College students – not to mention faculty and staff – have to be feeling burnt out at this time of year, whether it’s from projects, papers or final exams. So take a minute to rekindle your own fire.
Just make sure to keep those embers and open flames out of campus housing.