Even while a vicious war raged, the Homefront Christmas was still romantic because of the wishes and imaginings of separated lovers who communicated only through letters that were filled with hope and longing. I once came across a soldier's letter telling his new bride to buy a White Shoulders perfume gift set for herself and sign a card with his name. He had tucked a five dollar note in along with his missive and instructions.
Gift sets have always been popular Christmas presents and perfume houses and cosmetic companies still create them today. Growing up, our local Rexall carried many of them: Chanel #5, Jean Naté, Coty. They were always outfitted in foil boxes with clear plastic covers so that one might see the delightful offerings inside which nestled luxuriously on pastel felt or silky satin. A bottle of scent and matching bath powder or scent with a matching fragrant soap were the gift sets I remember but today they may include matching shower gels, purse sized spritzers, or body lotions.
One of the loveliest sets I remember was Coty's Muguet de Bois with the beautiful watery fragrance of lily of the valley. Packaged in pretty pink and green, it was the advertisement for the gift set that I loved so much. Coty always illustrated Muguet de Bois with a lush illustration of a romantic couple and at Christmas, the pair were housed in a snow capped gazebo holding hands. The copy read, "Flowers for Christmas. Wouldn't that be nice?" Flowers in deep winter. How very nice indeed.
Gift sets were not just for husbands and lovers to give; they were also welcomed gifts from fathers to daughters. My father gave me a box of Revlon's Moon Drops perfume with talcum powder and the moody scent carried away my heart during the second half of my senior year of high school. My best friend's heart was stolen with a Charlie gift set that included a small deodorant. And although they may be considered easy no-brainer gifts to give, they feel abundant to the receiver, especially if the perfume is a cherished signature one.
This Christmas, although still austere, seems to have some fresh bling in it. And I love seeing all the new shiny sets in the shops. They can be found everywhere, even discount stores. It's fun to check the aisles for sets of special nail colors, hand creams, and even collections of makeup brushes. It's even more fun when the sets have touches of Christmas whimsy like frosty ribbons and bows or snowflakes and snowmen.
I wonder if the young letter-writing soldier was able to carry his bride's heart away from such a great distance with a mere five dollar perfume gift set. I like to imagine it was as welcome as fresh cut flowers. In winter.