For most of us, memories of the holidays include the scents and flavors of pumpkin pies, gingerbread and hot chocolate, spiked coffee drinks and eggnog.

All of them make the perfect accompaniment to decorating the tree, wrapping gifts or watching a classic movie, and each requires an essential ingredient to top them off and make them holiday-special.

At least that’s been true since 1954 when Aaron Lapin patented an aerosol whipped cream that could be sprayed on top of deserts and drinks through a fluted valve that also added a festive touch.

Or, as many kids soon found out, sprayed directly into the mouth for tons of holiday fun with the cousins while the grown-ups were in the other room.

This Christmas, however, Reddi-Wip may be as hard to find as Hatchimals – this year’s Cabbage Patch Doll, Teddy Ruxpin and Tickle Me Elmo hard-to-find must-have toy.

The not-so-secret ingredient in the whipped cream is nitrous oxide, also used at dentist offices as “laughing gas” that relaxes nervous patients with an aversion to drills, and it is in short supply this year due to an explosion and fire at a chemical plant near Pensacola, Florida last August.

The explosion killed one employee and halted production by Airgas, the country’s largest supplier of the critical propellant, forcing ConAgra Foods, the maker of Reddi-whip, to look to Europe for nitrous oxide suppliers.

So far, with less than two-weeks left before Christmas, Reddi-Wip is in short supply on grocery store shelves with holiday cooks no doubt turning to Google and youtube for instructions as they reinvent the long-lost art of hand-whipping cream.

Finding the fluted pastry tip to make it look as perfect and festive as Reddi-Wip on top of that hot chocolate will take another search – and, no doubt, a visit to Bed, Bath and Beyond for a pastry bag that will soon find a permanent home at the back of a cabinet never to be used again.

Mastering the pastry bag is an entirely different matter – and it is nowhere near as fun as spraying Reddi-Wip right into your mouth!

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