Winter break is fast approaching and is already in effect for some. This means that the magical holiday season is here!! I love everything that has to do with the holiday season: creating memories, giving (and receiving), spending time with family.

Underlying all of these things is our sense of smell -- people don't actively think about it but we naturally associate certain smells with particular times of year or memories. Because of my sensitivity to smell and love of Christmas, I've decided to dedicate this article to 12 scents that come with the Christmas season. (Does "The Twelve Days of Christmas" ring a bell?)

How can you tell it's almost Christmas?

When you can smell...

1. Sugar and gingerbread cookies baking in the oven

2. The fresh, piney scent of your newly-cut Christmas tree (or the not-so-pleasant but very recognizable tinge of the plastic tree)

3. Wispy strands of smoke after someone blows out the snickerdoodle candle before they sink into a deep slumber on Christmas Eve

4. Crisp, clean air nipping at your nose when you step outside to appreciate the winter season (which I sincerely hope we are able to get a glimpse of here in SoCal)

5. Cinnamon from grandmother's homemade cookies and old Christmas decorations with cinnamon sticks attached to them

6. The refreshing scent of candy canes in all their pepperminty glory

7. Glazed ham and mashed potatoes, along with all the other food aromas wafting out of the bustling kitchen in preparation for the night's feast

8. The chocolatey warmth of spiced hot chocolate, whipped cream or marshmallows on top

9. Rustic firewood waiting to be burned in the fireplace while the stockings hang from the mantle, waiting for Santa

10. The sweetness of bubbly apple cider during present-opening and cold nights spent snuggling by the fire

11. The familiar, oddly comforting singe of burning dust from the heater while you're wrapped in your 5 fuzzy blankets fresh out of the dryer

and finally,

12. FREEDOM! No homework, no responsibilities (for the most part). Just kick back and relax, and gain a couple pounds over the break from all the food comas you're about to experience.