Christmas Scents and My Bi-cultural Brain

Have you ever asked the question why apple cider smells like Christmas to you? (Maybe it doesn’t.)

It is not JUST the apple cider. I am also talking about balsam and cedar, cinnamon and peppermint. When I first came to America, my friend eagerly shared with me her excitement about the smell of apple cider during Christmas. I asked innocently, “Why? What does it have to do with Christmas?”. That question to me was no different from “Why do people eat turkey during thanksgiving?” or “What song do people sing during the Fourth of July?”. I truly thought that there was some significant story or meaning behind it. Sure enough, my friend was caught off guard. The question was surprisingly more inspirational to her than I imagined (because she realized one more distraction on her list from making Christmas about Christ). However, I also once again, felt alone and realized that I was in a foreign country.

Scents can be very powerful. They can trigger happy or sad memories. Your child adopted internationally might be sensitive or inclined to a  certain taste or smell (even if they were raised in the United States for the most part). One time, a parent was sharing with me how her internationally adopted child was disobeying her. An example she provided was how her daughter refused to eat something she cooked. Immediately, I thought to myself, “It’s that smell!” Just like how a lot of Americans cannot stand the smell of some ethnic food, there are common American favorite food options that are not widely accepted among the Chinese, such as cheese or other dairy products.

If there are certain family traditions you would like to start or contine with your internationally adopted children, go for it! Just please be patient with them if they did not like them at the beginning. About a decade later, I really do enjoy walking into Bath and Body Works around this Christmas season to smell all of their new winter scent collection. I have learned to appreciate and enjoy the festivitiy of Christmas in America. THAT is a part of my acculturation journey and I am proud of it.

Leave a Reply