There is an undeniable magic to the season.
The smell of fresh pine. The holiday colors. The familiar melodies. And oh yes, the array of food and flavors.
Holiday ambiance is also a part of that magic. We have a nativity set that is part of the Christmas ambiance in our home. As we were decorating this year, we discovered that our nativity scene was incomplete. You know the little guy in swaddling clothes? The one with the adoring crowd? The crowd is there.
But he’s gone missing.
Absconded, I think.
We have six possible suspects. Excuse me, I mean grandchildren.
For the last several years, the swaddled baby has disappeared at the end of the holidays. However, we don’t catch his absence until decorating the following year. We wonder if he will show up and so far he has. Mysteriously, he makes his appearance around the 23rd of December.
Coincidentally, that’s about the same time a certain unnamed granddaughter arrives for the holidays.
Yes, Christmas has a magic, but Christmas also has its own chemistry.
Did you know that? Research tells us that there is an important chemical side to love and bonding. Therefore, the love and bonding that are part of Christmas has a chemical side, too.
Let’s call it Christmas Chemistry
You see, we all have a chemical in our brain that plays an important role in the creation of the bonds of love we share with one another.
Say hello to my little friend, Oxytocin.
This hormone appears to be linked with trust, bonding and love, with people secreting higher levels of the hormone when they are involved in activities with people they are close to. Significant others, family, friends and even pets are part of this miracle where closeness releases Oxytocin in our human brain creating a sense of calmness and well being.
Words and actions of appreciation, generous touch, gratitude, and emotional connections with others appear to raise Oxytocin levels.
Stated simply, your caring behaviors and your loving actions help to produce this neurotransmitter.
So consider the rich traditions and times that can make this season warming to our hearts. Eating meals, singing and laughing together can all influence our ability to bond emotionally with one another.
Our daughter has a tradition every Christmas where she, her husband and their two girls make batches of Christmas Chocolate Peanut Clusters. The girls get excited about making the yearly Christmas treat together. There’s the making of, the tasting, the mess, the wrapping and the delivery to the special people in their lives. Their own special Christmas chemistry.
Well, I don’t gossip but I do like listening.
The point is that the processes of sharing engaging experiences with our loved ones can help bind us together emotionally. Isn’t that awesome? You can consciously contribute to the experiences that encourage production of this important brain chemical.
Very cool, don’t you think? Christmas cool.
Here’s a recipe from our dear friend Mary. Our family always looks forward to her seasonal sugar cookies and they are now part of our holiday celebrations. We’d miss them if they didn’t show up.
So take her recipe, find someone close to you and have a ball making these. Or find someone to eat them with over a cup of coffee. Or find someone to share them with.
Mary Christmas Sugar Cookies
375* 6-8 min.
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. grated orange peel
1 tsp. vanilla
4 tsp. milk
2 cups flour
1&1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Thoroughly cream the shortening, sugar, orange peel and vanilla.
Add egg & milk and beat until light and fluffy. (I use an electric mixer).
Add dry ingredients and blend well. Divide dough in half and chill 1 hour in a plastic bag. On a lightly floured surface roll dough out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut in desired shapes with cookie cutters.
Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 6-8 minutes.
Let cool for about 30 seconds then remove from the pan with a spatula and let cookies cool completely. Frost and decorate as you like.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies depending on the size of the cookie cutters.
These last few months have been busy.
I taught two semester classes at a community college and my time for writing was limited.
But both the year and the semester have come to a close and I wanted to take the time to wish you all a wonderful Christmas season.
So, here is to family and friends near and far.
Here is to old friends, new friends and friends yet to be.
Buon Natale ,
and Boldog Karácsonyt,
Now go make some Oxytocin with someone.