We’re celebrating Christmas on a bright and chilly day here in New York City, and I’ll be burning a favorite seasonal candle (The Lucky Honeybee Christmas Hearth) or two (Diptyque Flocon) and perhaps a stick of incense (Esteban Teck & Tonka) in our home. I think I also have some Aftelier frankincense oil that I could use in a burner. Are you scenting your own space in any special way for the holiday season?
It seems like the perfect moment to share this little magazine advertisement from 1913. New York-based perfumer and entrepreneur Ann Haviland was offering “franckincense” in a “Christmas bundle,” an item that surely referred to the Magi’s gift of gold and precious resins to the Christ Child. This ad includes a sweet illustration of a figure in a Poiret-esque outfit and not one, but two, literary references. At the top, there’s a quote from the first scene of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew: “and burn sweet wood to make the lodging sweet.”
The lines inserted into the product description—“some grain of balsam, myrrh, and franckincense”—were new to me, so I tracked them down. They’re borrowed from a poem by a now-forgotten writer named Levi Gilbert. This verse, titled “Incense,” is the internal monologue of a church acolyte whose task is to carry the censer during a processional. Here are a few more lines:
Dim through the dusk the arches spring
The temple’s dome above me bends
My censer to and fro I swing
Its scented wreath of smoke ascends.
I wish you a peaceful and fragrant Christmas and a safe, warm evening!