Sensory delights of the season

Published 10:43 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2016

By Susan and Biff Andrews

The older one gets, the more Christmas memories and experiences to savor — and “savor” is the right word, as the season’s delights are a compilation of sights, sounds, smells and tastes of one’s past, from age 2 to the present.

Here are some of our favorites:

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  • The tinkling bell of the Salvation Army representative, be he Santa-clad or not. That bell would be recognizable in the middle of July, but so out of context.
  • The sound of someone reading, reciting or enacting Luke, Chapter 2, “The Night Before Christmas,” “A Christmas Carol,” etc. By the bye, if you are not familiar with Truman Capote’s short story “A Christmas Memory,” read it this year. You’ll reread it every year thereafter.
  • The sound of Christmas carols in stores, on elevators, television, even radio — remember that?


  • Balsam and Douglas fir trees at the tree lot — even better as you’re stringing lights on one.
  • A fire — at the tree lot, in your own fireplace or in the fire pot on the deck, hopefully while the oysters are roasting above it.


  • A red cardinal against a green background, snow being the ultimate bonus.
  • Dabbling ducks that have come back for the winter — mergansers, mallards, teal ….
  • Bright stars on a cold, clear, moonless night — no ambient light to dim the lights of heaven.
  • Christmas lights, entire neighborhoods aglow. Not the overboard semi-professional “displays” — just the neighbors letting folks know they celebrate the season.
  • The shapes and tastes of a candy cane. They’re just not for May.


  • Christmas cookies, especially if decorated by children, triply so if they’re done by grandchildren.
  • Eggnog. The real deal, especially if it’s the “artillery” eggnog that pickles Uncle Louie every year.
  • Stuffing, especially with sausage and apples — Virginia sausage and Virginia apples.
  • Greens at Christmas and black-eyed peas on New Year’s.

All of these make this special season what it is.  We each have our special memories — most tied to family moments (last Christmas with Uncle Thud or Aunt Tilly, the first year nephew Jimmy was in attendance).

I hope many of your favorites involve the outdoors — the year we caught the big rockfish; the year it snowed the day before Christmas; the year it was so cold; the year we found a new beach on a hike.

The cardinals and stars and ducks are here every year, but ….

And the literary constants: Ebenezer Scrooge and  Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior and “Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap.”  Even the newer television classics — the Grinch, Kevin in “Home Alone,”  George Bailey and Mr. Potter in “A Wonderful Life.”

All of these are sensory inputs of this season — wildly out of place in August. Enjoy them. Savor them.

Merry Christmas!

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at