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The Sweet Smell of the Holidays

By Sydney Falchook

The holidays are approaching: the air is crisp, the leaves are falling, and the countdown until winter break is almost complete. As you walk around your house, the distinct smell of holiday food circulates throughout. With one sniff you are reminded that the holidays are near.

But how is it that something as simple as smell can give you “the holiday feeling?”

Why does the smell of turkey and cranberry sauce remind you of your family’s Thanksgiving dinner? Why does the smell of gingerbread houses bring you the warm feeling of snowed-in celebrations?

Scientifically speaking, this is due to the limbic system and conditioned responses. These processes enable your brain to associate a smell with a memory or emotion, starting at a young age. Therefore, if the first time a food was consumed was during a holiday celebration, the smell may forever awaken memories of that event.

According to sophomore Sydney Someck, “When I smell the latkes on the stove during Hanukkah, I envision myself unwrapping presents, lighting the menorah, and spending quality time with loved ones. It’s an immediate trigger.”

Ironically, Someck does not find the smell of latkes appealing; however, she feels “warm and protected” because she associates the smell with family traditions. “It doesn’t even have to be Hanukkah, but as soon as the latkes are cooking, I can visualize past memories,” she said.

Likewise, senior Allie DiJohn associates the comfortable scent of roasted chestnuts with a Christmas tradition. “Anytime I smell roasted chestnuts, it reminds me of when my grandpa and I used to sit in front of the fire place and roast chestnuts after eating a huge family meal.”

Holiday foods create memories for all starting at a young age. The smell of these comfort foods is perhaps what makes the holidays so memorable, for it evokes warmth, love, and familiar emotions. It arouses those dinner table memories. Those pleasant memories are what make holiday food smells so irresistible.

So the next time you breathe in that familiar “holiday smell,” try to recollect the memories that correlate, and be sure to ask for a bite!

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