First Annual Winter Solstice Event at Anya’s Garden Perfumes – Day Three

by | Dec 23, 2012 | Anya's Garden Perfumes | 47 comments

Day Three of eleven days of the Winter Solstice Event, which will end Dec. 31, 2012.


 Menorah made of recycled perfume bottles from the 19th Century.

Hanukkah – the Festival of Lights

I’ll start with a story that is a carry-over from the story I started this blog event with – me walking home from my aunt’s house after dark.  The distance of three blocks was well-lit with Christmas lights and Menorah candles in the windows of the homes and businesses I passed.  The reason I was heading home was that, still in my Catholic school uniform, I had left my aunt’s after lighting the Menorah candles.  I was raised in a bi-religious (is that a real term?) family, Irish/Scots Catholic, Pennsylvania Dutch Methodist on one side, Jewish on the other.  I thought this was normal, but then my neighborhood, right next to the University of Pennsylvania, was filled with a mixture of cultures, ethnicities and religions not found in many other places.

I never spun a dreidel, but I did love Hanukkah gelt, milk chocolate ‘coins’ tightly wrapped in gold foil. I did understand the meaning of Hanukkah, because my aunt gave me a book that I am still looking to replace, but can’t find – “A Child’s History of the Hebrew People” with David and Goliath on the cover.

The word Hanukkah means “devotion” in Hebrew. Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

The trouble between the Jews and the Syrian-Greeks began In 168 B.C.E. when the Jewish Temple was seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers and dedicated to the worship of the god Zeus. Fear of punishment kept the Jews from fighting back, but the turning point came in 167 B.C.E. Antiochus, a Syrian-Greek emperor, decreed that the Jewish faith was outlawed, and any found observing it would be put to death.

Residents of the little village of Modiin, near Jerusalem began the rebellion. After soldiers tried to force them to eat pork, and worship Greek Gods. Mattathias, a Jewish High Priest, led a sword fight, and the Jews killed all the Greek soldiers. When others joined them, they retook their land from the Greeks.  These Jewish rebels were known as Maccabees.

Finding the temple in Jerusalem defiled by the Greeks, the Macabees wanted to purify the Temple by burning ritual oil in the Temple’s menorah for eight days. However, there was only enough oil for one day.  Through some miracle, the oil lasted the eight days and the tradition of rememberance is carried on to his day by the eight-day lighting  of the menorah, typically with candles, not oil.

The Hebrew calendar is based on lunar cycles, and Hanukkah can fall between November and late December. Although not strictly in line with the theme of Winter Solstice of this blog, it shows that the use of light in the darkest month of the year is reflected in Hanukkah.

That is my attempt to succinctly convey the story of Hanukkah – and a girl who equated the lights of both religion as comforting and uplifting around the time of the Winter Solstice.

I feel that my pure perfume Temple would be an appropriate giveaway for today’s theme. It comes in a 3.5 ml bottle. It is very potent and can be used on the skin or a drop or two added to water heated over a tea candle. I created Temple using aromatics drawn from Buddhist and Ayurvedic healing plants because I believed they had a healing effect on the psyche of people who had suffered trauma. Precious and rare Oud, from the powerful wood of the aloeswood tree, is known to slow down brain waves from beta – the waves that are in play when we’re awake, working, busy, to alpha – the deeper relaxation waves that can induce meditation. Many who have visited Temples in Japan and India tell me that my perfume smells just like those temples! I apologize that I don’t have a particular scent reminiscent of a Jewish Temple!  Do you associate a particular aroma with a synagogue? Well, the winner can enjoy my Temple in its place.  Comments will be accepted until 10 a.m. tomorrow, Dec. 24th and the winner will be randomly selected at that time and notified by email.


  1. maria s

    Thank you Anya:)

  2. Zee

    I had a sample of Temple once (it went fast because I loved it) and my boss at the time who grew up in Japan had the most intense scent memory that she couldn’t place I wonder if it was a temple she experienced. Thanks for sharing Anya.

  3. Magdalena Roza

    Does it heal heart trauma?

  4. Mim En

    I do associate a mix of scents with synagogue: candy (my grandfather was the candyman), wool, leather, a cloud of ladies’ perfume (not really a note), papery old books, and sometimes sweet concord grape wine, occasionally candles/smoke, and other things seasonally–etrog and myrtle in the fall mostly.

    I would love to try Temple–it sounds like even though it is quite different from any real-life references I have, that it would aid in bringing the wearer/smeller to a spiritual place all the same.

  5. Julia

    Thanks for the story of Hanukkah, was really interesting to read it!

  6. Monica H.

    I grew up smelling incense, a deep aloeswood wafting up into the air. Later I became a Christian and I began to associate the smell of Frankincense and Myrrh when I think “temple”, and what fitting ingredients as we approach Christmas!


  7. Molly

    The lights have always been one of the most magical parts of this time of year for me as well. One of the benefits to living in the north (Vermont) this time of year, when everything starts to seem cold and dark, is driving home on a snowy evening lit by holiday lights. It hasn’t been a great year for snow yet, but as of this morning there is just enough of a dusting on the ground to make it look like winter.

    • Janice Zimmermann

      Thank you for taking me through that wonderful scent journey with your story.I have never been in a temple or synagogue .I would love to experience the journey through the scent of your Temple perfume!

  8. Sandi L

    I too had a sample of Temple at one time. Funny thing mine did not last long either! Thanks Anya!

  9. Suzy

    Another fascinating installment in your Winter Solstice adventure. I am very interested in the fact that aloeswood can alter brainwaves. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on different sound healing techniques that do that as well–ie, isochronic tones. Have a wonderful day Anya and I look forward to more illuminating information tomorrow.

  10. Adrian R

    I love the menorah and Iove how it is actually a kosher menorah. The shamash, or 9th candle you use to light the others must always be higher then the other 8 candles.

  11. Dana Tate

    Temple sounds like a gorgeous fragrance, Anya. I am thoroughly enjoying your posts!

  12. Joni Evans

    I love your stories! For the book you are missing, have you tried ? I have alot of luck with them finding old books and herbals. At the moment, my favorite seasonal scent is Myrrh, about which I am writing my final paper. Keep the stories coming!

  13. katrin kruczko

    In the eastern orthodox tradition incense is always burned so I associate.incense with religious practice.

  14. Eileen J

    Definitavely I associage the Frankinsence aroma with sinagogs. I really like the meaning of the light ritual of

  15. Musette

    I love the story of the Maccabees. They are fierce! And I love the scent of incense during the Solstice – it’s a very calming and uplifting ritual.

    Thanks for the opportunity to try this – and, as always, thank you for a wonderful story!


    is a Synagogue fragrance for me.~
    Most of my family went to this one synagogue in Tel Aviv,
    and all-men and women were wearing the same
    Lavender perfume the purchased in the market’
    each brought their little or big bottle with them.

    Only later when Israel established itself more,
    different perfumes were presented to all’
    but even though ,even younger members of the family
    are still loyal to this Lavender perfume.

  17. beth millar

    I love to read about the inspiration behind scents and their development. Thanks for sharing Anya


  18. monica englander

    Anya, how great to read your story here — I, too, was raised “bi-religious” (and it is a word now, because you just coined it!). My Dad’s side of the family is Jewish, my Mom’s, Catholic. I never felt any conflict in that, growing up — in fact, I felt included in everything that was good.
    Today, I consider myself more Buddhist than anything else, but still pray in both Jewish Temples and Catholic (or any other, really) Churches.
    Your Temple perfume sounds literally Divine! Yes, please, throw my hat in the ring for that chance — I’d love to wear it! Perfume, after all, started out as a means of prayerful devotion — didn’t the Greeks put it on the tops of their heads, so that it could ascend to the nostrils of God?
    Well, I know all your perfumes are Heavenly, and I am eager to try this one out! Thanks for the chance.
    Sending you love, hugs, and wishes for Peace, and your heart’s desires made manifest for you,
    Monica 🙂 M

  19. Ruth

    Your Temple fragrance sounds gorgeous. Each synagogue has its own scent, which changes depending on the time of year. For the High Holy Days, it’s too much and many many perfumes. Around Hanukkah, it’s the smell of latkes. No clue what it will be like next year, when Hanukkah coincides with Thanksgiving!

    Thank you for this lovely series of posts.

  20. Renee/Efrat McCleary

    I have a sample of Temple and I love it. I have been to a few synagogues in Israel but I never associated them with scent. I know that in Biblical times an emphasis was given to scent as a way of lifting ones senses to higher realm of being . In Exodus, Stacte, Onycha and Galbanum are mentioned. What Stacte and Onycha were is still a mystery, but they were used in Solomon’s temple. The word “Messiah” in Hebrew means “the anointed one.”

    In services today, Rabbis don’t use scent or incense anymore, which is a shame. I would have loved to associate a synagogue with scent. In orthodox Jewish homes, however, scent is an important element in the ceremony of saying goodbye to the Sabbath (on Saturday evening) and rejoining the time of the regular work week. The three symbolic elements used in this ceremony of “Havdala” are a braided candle, a cup of wine, and a spice box. The candle is lit, a prayer is said, and then the candle is put out in the wine which is spilled onto a plate. The final step is to pass around a spice box for everyone to smell, to remind them of the sweetness of the Sabbath they are leaving.

    To me, Hanukkah smells of cinnamon and apples, because of the applesauce put on potato pancakes or latkes, but mostly of “Sufganiot”, which is the Hebrew word for a kind of donut made during this holiday. When you walk the streets of any city in Israel during Hanukkah, you are overwhelmed with the scent of these donuts pouring out of the many bakeries. Their scent is so powerful that there is no way anyone can resist trying at least one Sufgania.

  21. Kendall adams

    I am bi-religious too. My father was a russian jew and my mom is french catholic. Now that i have two little boys and a husband who was raised methodist, i try and keep with the tradition of my youth. But i gotta say. ” oh my yaweh an jesus this bi-religious holidays get expensive when u have two kids. Oy vey!”. 🙂

  22. Yash

    Hello Anya
    I have never been inside a synagogue but I reckon it would be smelling of molten wax candles, old books and woodsy incensy vibe with the presence of furniture and tapestry… Your Temple scent is gorgeous and has that deep spiritual connection to the soul when I smelled it the first time..
    Thank you for the giveaway..

  23. Suzinn

    What a great post! I think I had the same book as a child because the minute you mentioned it an image came to my mind and I recall being fascinated with the story of David and Goliath! I was raised in South Jersey in the 60’s so perhaps that book with that specific cover was around at the time. I looked it up and found copies for sale but none with David and Goliath on the cover.

    I associate Hanukkah with the lighting of our beautiful brass menorah, latkes (and the wonderful smell of frying them up), dreidels and of course presents! Going to temple was also part of our ritual and the smell that comes to mind is all the fragrances men and women would wear mingling with the smell of wet wool and fur in the cloak room where I would hide while my mom helped with taking peoples coats.

    I’ve created a perfume called Lumina with a temple of all faiths in mind. It is based in a tincture of benzoin and takes me to a time immemorial and full of light. I’d love to smell your Temple perfume!
    May your Holiday be Happy and Bright and your New Year full of DELIGHT! xo

  24. Hemla

    I would add one bit of information:
    in the temple, the menorah was always lit.
    the oil used for the menorah had to be pure, so there were very spicific ways of maintaining the bottles of oil, and when they were pure, they had a special seal on them stating just that.
    when the jews went back into the temple, the first thing they wanted to do was light the menorah, but found that all the oil bottles had been in one way or another tampered with, and there remained only one bottle untouched, still with it;s seal. this bottle was enough for one day, it takes eight days to procure more pure olive oil, and they were sad thinking that finaly they get to relight the menorah, only to have it go out in a day. the miracle was that it lit for eight days, at the end of which they had more oil to light it without the help of a miracle.
    I’ll add another nice bit
    it was only the next year that chanukah was announced a holiday -in hebrew, a mo’ed, which means a time, moadim -or holidays in english- represent sertain aspects of god -different lights that are expressed on earth repetitively at this time of year. so by knowing the mo’adim, you can fine tune yourself towards growth in a way that will be harmonious with the being -the world around you.
    so as I was saying, it was only the next year, when they found the same lights of Chanukah again to be felt on earth at this same time, that they announced Chanukah to be a Mo’ed, and not just a miracle to be thankful for.
    Chanukah represents the time that God gows down to the lowest levels, it says the menorah can be lit until the last person has left the street -meaning God will light, until the last of the people gets to see it. there are also rules of what height you are allowed to light on, basicaly, you can’t light it too high up, and it should be where everyone can see the light. also, representing gods descent down to the lowest places, lighting up the world brom bottom up.
    maybe that is why it truly is a holiday that warms the heart, so simply.
    I don’t know much about other religions, but I do know a bit about this one, so I share where I can, hope it is accepted well.

    • Eileen Jackson


  25. The Duke of Pall Mall

    Catholics burn olibanum, Greek orthodox styrax, so I’ve heard, but never having been to a Jewish temple I really have no idea. I would imagine it to be a deeply archaic smell, commensurate with counting the year 5773.

  26. JK

    Great history recap about the Maccabean Revolt!

    I love making Temple Oils–using raw materials and/or perfume ingredients and macerating them in oil (in this case, usually Olive), and then burning them in oil lamps. I would imagine that the original oil that was burnt those 8 days would have been quite fragrant with gums, resins, Henna, Spikenard, Cinnamon, Saffron, Calamus, Algum (Sandal), and Aloes-woods. No pun intended…but Heavenly!

  27. Gail

    I use pure oudh oils on a regular basis and would be interested to try your Temple perfume.

  28. Isa

    I had a sample of Temple once and it was my favorite. It gave me a serene, meditative, reverent feeling. I always wanted more. I left the States and now live in a small village in southern France. A nearby village was once a Jewish settlement.

    Thanks for your warming story and this giveaway. Happy holidays.

  29. Simone

    Happy (Belated) Chanuka & Merry Christmas to you! That was actually a really good question about scents associated w/ Synagogues. The strongest scent memory I associate w/ Synagogues occurred when I was in The Great Synagogue of Rome one Shabbat & at Havdalah (the ritual comemorating the end of Shabbat) the members of the congregation were given sprigs of rosemary for “Besamim”. Besamim (coming from the Hebrew word “Bosem” which means perfume) is any scented object that you smell at a certain moment in the Havdalah service. The smell was so green, so potent, & so camphorous. It was really refreshing-it woke up all my senses!

  30. Lura Astor

    I love your descriptions, coming at a time I am reading a book by Julia Assante “The Last Frontier: Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Death”. Assante is also an archeologist and covers the history you speak of, and much more, as she unearths our relationships to death, dying and communications with the dead, which you and I know can include a scent coming to us that belongs to someone we love/d.
    Bright Light Blessings! And, Bright Light Blissings.

  31. Lindaloo

    Thanks for the story — always puts me in mind of the Peter, Paul and Mary song, Light One Candle.

    Temple sounds magical: a calming influence. And of all that’s been written about oud, I didn’t know the info about its specific effect on brain waves.

  32. Maria

    Really enjoying the storytelling here, Anya
    Accordingly I offer this little piece of enlightenment 🙂

    There is a musical instrument called the Oud which has a particularly long tradition in Iraq where there is a saying that the country’s soul lies within the sound of this instrument. The Oud is thought to have had healing powers – some say that Oud playing rebalances the temperament whilst calming and reviving the heart.

    May we maintain abiding strength of heart always – it is the centrepiece of our body, temple of our soul.


  33. Brian Shea

    Thank you for another great and informative and evocative post Anya. The one time I was in a synagogue for a Bar Mitzvah I don’t remember any smells in particular, but I do know from reading that incense was used in the temples in ancient days, frankincense in particular.
    I’ve never smelled your Temple, and since I love oud and woody smells I’m sure I would love it.

  34. Rae Lynn Reffruschinni

    My scent memory of church is of beeswax candles. Your stories are lovely. Thank you!

  35. Ida

    It’s nice that you included Hanukkah in your Winster Solstice Event. I love the menorah made of perfume bottles! And I would love to try your frangrance, Temple. It sounds intriguing and I imagine it smells intriguing as well.

  36. Tamara Shortt

    Oooh Oud! I’ve always been very intrigued by reading descriptions of that scent for some reason. I’ve promised myself that I’m going to treat myself to some to make a personal perfume with one day. It appears that your blog is taking me on a repressed memory scent tour. Prior to living in the Philippines, we lived in Japan when I was eight months old through three years old. The comment that the Oud smelled like Japanese temples made me wonder about something. So I just asked my father if he ever took us to the temples. He said that he did, just to experience the culture of the country we were living in. I think my brain was trying to let me know that I’ve experienced that scent and loved it, even though I don’t remember being exposed to it. Thanks Anya for an awakening into my own psyche.

  37. Kim

    How beautiful!

  38. Karyn

    Temple incense! I have incense that is used in the temples in India. Its quality is poor and flowery, while I prefer woodsy and spicy, but the scent takes me straight to the Siddhivinayak in Mumbai every time I burn it. That temple, like most in India (and unlike most in the US!), is not a solemn place. People move along in line, bustling up to the altar and handing their offerings to the priests, who place them on the altar and then take something that has “altar time” and give it to the supplicants. There’s nothing quiet about it: People chant or pray out loud, chat with each other, or circumambulate statues of the gods, and priests chant pujas in the background, while security guards holler at the crowd to move along and let the next ones in. There’s a website that has a webcam of the altar, so people from the other side of the world can have darshan (be in the presence) of the god, too. You can almost smell the incense when you watch it!

    I didn’t grow up bi-religious, per se. My parents were Presbyterian, but we lived in a Jewish neighborhood, and my best girlfriend was Jewish. I celebrated Jewish holidays with her family, and she came and celebrated Christian ones with us. Now, I tend more toward the Buddhist/Hindu way of seeing things. Does that make me ‘tri-religious’? 🙂

    No matter what religion you practice (or don’t), I wish you all a Lovely Holiday!

  39. Michael S

    I can’t say that I have ever been in a synagogue to know how it smells, but i have smelled Temple and it is fantastic!

    I dont recall hearing how Blue Temple turned out. Did I miss it somewhere along the way?

    Thank you for sharing about Hanukkah!

  40. cbstarker

    Although I’m not a religious person myself, I’ve always been drawn to the religious aspects (and architecture) of other cultures, especially the shrines of Japan. I spent a short but delightful week there not too long ago and my visits to the shrines an temples were definitely the highlight of my trip. The air around these sacred areas is always fragrant with an incense that I found subtle yet intoxicating. It’s not the same intense smell as you’d find in a cathedral but lighter, more uplifting, ethereal. I’ve yet to find a perfume that truly duplicates it but hope your Temple gets there. Thanks for the draw!

  41. Gayle

    I have always tried to consciously seek out a mixture of cultures, ethnicities, & religions in order to broaden my knowledge & awareness of the diversity the universe provides us. Your telling of the story of Hanukkah was wonderful & enlightening! I didn’t know that the Hebrew calendar is based on lunar cycles & Hanukkah can be as early as November or as late as the end of December for that reason. My wonderful Jewish friends made me smile with their Hanukkah cards full of holiday cheer… on friday, the first day of your blog, my father-in-law passed away at home less than one month shy of his 93rd birthday whom we have been the caregivers of for the past seven years. Your Temple perfume sounds like a must have!

    • anya

      Hi Gayle:

      My condolences on the loss of your FIL. My mother passed away this past year, and she lived with me, then the nursing home nearby (2 years), for the past 14 years, so this season is my first without her. The blog is a great diversion! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the blog


  42. Scottie

    When I was a kid I once set a little bit of another child’s hair on fire with a candle in Synagogue. Nobody was hurt, but the smell was disgusting! Thanks for the great draw, and for the inclusivity of your Solstice event!

  43. Tativa

    I haven’t been to a synagogue… but I strongly associate the scent of frankincense or sandalwood with religious purposes. Frankincense because I grew up Catholic, sandalwood from visiting Buddhist temples. I think that is awesome that you grew up with two religions! Gives you a lot more to be able to relate to folks with.

    Thank you again for the draw, and Merry Christmas Eve!

  44. anya

    The winner of Temple perfume is Maria from Wales. Thanks everyone for taking part, and I hope you all are having as much fun, and learning as much as I am about Winter Solstice history and practices as I am!



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