7. Pinon scent. There is a very special and particular fragrance that fills the air when pinon wood is burning. You can’t call it generic “pine” because it’s very different. Describing an aroma to someone who’s never experienced it is very difficult, but pinon is like a cross between a very light woodsy incense, juniper, and cedar (sort of ). The scent makes me stop and inhale; it carries an almost-spiritual quality to it and just makes me feel good. To me it is one of the scents of “home”.
8. Christmas Eve dinner. From our first Christmas in New Mexico on through our last we would celebrate Christmas Eve by reserving a table at a special restaurant in Old Town Albuquerque where we’d feast of scrumptious foods without giving a single thought to calories, fat grams, or sugar intake. When my sister moved to New Mexico she came to look forward to this meal for more than a month in advance. It was one of the few dinners out all year where we would truly linger, not think about the time or what may need to be done afterwards, and enjoy all the courses regardless of how stuffed we be by the end, because we knew we’d be walking it off as we covered the entire area to admire the luminarias.
9. Skiing with Santa. For many years we spent Christmas alone, just the two of us. Many people thought it “sad” that we’d not be in the middle of a huge family gathering, but it was fine with us as we’d established our traditions and enjoyed not having to rush between families or keep track of who we spent the last holiday with. We didn’t like to travel over the holidays (too hectic, too many cancelled flights, too expensive) and, understandably, most of our family felt the same way. So, one of the fun things we would do frequently was to hit the slopes on Christmas Day. That was, if Sandia Peak was open and had snow. We would pack a picnic lunch, hot chocolate or cider, and don the ski boots. It was a great time to practice and work up to steeper runs because the slopes were uncrowded. Everyone was always in a good mood, and there was invariably one or two guys dressed like Santa swishing down the mountain.
10. The Light Displays. We always enjoyed bundling into the car to admire the lights around town. My mom would pick up my grandparents and we’d drive around their town, gazing upon the beautifully-lit mansions (or what I had always thought of as mansions) on Main Street and then returning to Grams’ for a piece of pie. Bryan and I did the same around Albuquerque, minus the pie. We saw a lot of over-the-top decorations, I can tell you. A lot of fun ones, too.
11. The Prophecies. I like reading the Nativity account every year, but especially like reading the prophets who foretold the events centuries and centuries before they occurred. That always gives me reassurance, a connection with history, an increased feeling of mystery, and reminds me that God does have a Master Plan for the world.
12. Mr. Jingaling. I’ve written before about this icon who brought immeasurable joy to countless children in northern Ohio. To many of us, he was better than Santa Claus. Santa, after all, could be found on nearly every street corner. Mr. Jingaling, on the other hand, was all ours. We looked forward to visiting him and just *knew* that he was glad to see, too. Those were special times to a kid. But I think the adults were as impressed with Mr. Jingaling as the children.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year!