Aromatic, green and fresh. That unmistakable aroma of Christmas. The pine tree has the power to transport us to crackling log fires, carols and the rustling of wrapping paper as tiny hands size up their presents while no one is looking. It is the scented pine that veils the air with festive magic.
These magnificent coniferous evergreens are robust and hardy, and can be found growing in some of the hottest and coldest places on earth. Their long, thin needles retain water better than flat leaves, which means pines can grow in deserts, forests and mountainous areas in both the northern and southern hemispheres. They like to stick around too – it’s not uncommon for pines to live beyond 1,000 years, with the oldest on record currently celebrating its 5,067th – or thereabouts – birthday. That’s A LOT of candles.
Pine trees have proved enormously useful to us humans over the centuries. We’ve made paper out of them. Furniture. Ships’ masts. We have pesto and other culinary delights courtesy of their edible seeds. Native Americans used to snack on the trees’ inner white bark. Swedes drink the needles in boiling water as a supposedly vitamin rich tea they call tallstrunt. The Russians enjoy making pine-cone jam, which is said to be good for boosting the immune system. And the Mexicans make coffee out of roasted pine nuts.
Pine cones are deeply embedded in religious symbolism and have been for a long time. Mayan, Egyptian, Hindu, Greek and Roman gods have all been depicted carrying staffs decorated with pine-cone motifs – the Pope still has one today. That’s because pine cones are said to represent human enlightenment or our ‘third eye’. The pineal gland – shaped, you’ve guessed it, like a pine cone – is near the centre of the brain and is linked to the body’s perception of light and therefore our sleep and wake cycles.
Pine trees are, of course, indelibly linked with our Christmas traditions, with the custom of a decorated evergreen said to have emanated from the royal circles of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. We couldn’t imagine this time of year without it, to be honest, so that’s why at, Jo Malone London, we’re devotees of our classic Pine & Eucalyptus fragance which evokes the magic of Christmas morning mixed with the invigorating brightness of eucalyptus. It’s the signature scent of the season. A mixture of nostalgia and tradition undercut with modernity to scent the best Christmas you’ve ever had.