The 12 Scents of Christmas

Christmas marshmallow man in a cup of hot chocolate. Sat on pine kneedles, next to cinnamon sticks and cookies

Walking indoors and smelling your favourite Christmas scent can evoke memories of the past.

Transporting you back in time and filling you with warm, happy memories of Christmas many moons ago.

From roasted chestnuts to ginger, orange, and cloves, they have helped paint a picture of Christmas for centuries and probably continue for years to come.

According to Rachel Herz, an assistant professor of human behaviour and psychiatry at Brown University USA:

Scents are “really special” because “they can bring back memories that might otherwise never be recalled”.

Mulled wine in glass mugs surrounded by Christmas decorations

Here are our top 12 favourite scents synonymous with Christmas, that we feel our readers will love too:

1. Pine – We actually use a number of different evergreen conifers for our Christmas trees here in the UK, including fir, spruce and pine.

We love the scent of pine trees, as they have a lovely fragrance that isn’t too overbearing. You can find the Scots pine (Scotland’s national tree) and the Lodgepole pine are both great choices.

2. Peppermint – The main source of peppermint at Christmas are peppermint candy canes found adorning Christmas trees.

Faux Christmas tree with candy cane sweet as Christmas decoration

However, it has become a lot more popular over the years to add peppermint syrups to hot chocolates, Mochas and lattes the nearer we get to Christmas.

3. Cinnamon – A popular spice all year round, cinnamon can still easily evoke memories of Christmas, as you will find this wonderful spice in a huge number of drinks this time of year: spiced latte, mulled wine, punch, cocktails, and you can even purchase a Cinnamon & Allspice Porter Beer from M&S.

When added to baked goods cinnamon adds a spicy warmth and heavenly smell, that will make any guest feel Christmassy the moment they walk through the door.

4. Brandy – If you thought the smell of Christmas pudding on its own smelt good, you should try it with a splash of brandy! Brandy can be added directly to the recipe, or added after as a sauce, or butter, but for dramatic effect and to release even more of the aromas, you might want to consider dousing the pudding in brandy and setting it alight, the effect in low light is spectacular.

Flambe Christmas pudding

Don’t forget to keep some of that brandy for a digestif! There are many options when it comes to the preferred way of drinking brandy. Many like it neat, or on the rocks, with a mixer, or as a cocktail. Although, if you’re looking for a cosy drink by the fire, why not add some brandy to a mug of hot chocolate.

5. Chocolate – Talking of chocolate, in the 21st century it wouldn’t be Christmas without chocolate. Christmas morning we’d wake up early and rip apart our chocolate selection pack and then once we were allowed downstairs to open our presents, we’d proceed to rummage through tins of roses and quality streets for our favourites.

The smell of chocolate permeates through each room at Christmas time as it’s entwined within everything we do, from stocking fillers, to Christmas tree decorations, deserts, biscuits, cakes, drinks and millions of boxes are given as Christmas presents each year in the UK alone.

6. Roasted Chestnuts – I can conjure up the smell just thinking about them. Pop down to your local high street or shopping centre and you’re more than likely to catch the enticing aroma of roasted chestnuts drifting through the air.

Roasted Chestnuts in a pan over flames

If you’re lucky enough to own a wood burning stove, roasting chestnuts on the fire is a great way to bring the family together. Moreover, your house will smell amazing.

7. Star Anise – This small star shaped spice gives off a memorable scent that takes you back to Christmas, and along with other spices it’s added to festive drinks such as warm cider, punch and the Christmas favourite mulled wine.

The shape and aroma also lends itself well to Christmas potpourri and Christmas decorations.

8. Orange – The trusty orange used to be a staple fruit at Christmas time. Children would receive an orange in their stocking – usually a mandarin, and it was popular to eat orange and lemon flavoured slices of soft jelly, covered in sugar. It seems more popular with older generations nowadays. However orange flavoured chocolate and sweets are still a staple at Christmas.

Christmas table decoration. Candels and wine glasses, with a decorative centre piece made of scented spiced orange pomander balls.

Oranges are still popular as decorations, from dried oranges hung on Christmas trees to pomander balls (oranges decorated with cloves) placed in decorative bowls. Christmas potpourri using oranges is always a great choice too, and if you want it to smell extra special, add orange essential oils*.

According to all you need to make Christmas potpourri are the following ingredients:

  • One large orange
  • 2-3 small fir/evergreen branches
  • A handful of cinnamon sticks
  • A handful of small pinecones
  • 1-2 drops of Fir Needle Essential Oil
  • 1-2 drops of Sweet Orange Essential Oil
  • 1-2 drops of Cinnamon (Bark) Essential Oil

If you would like to learn how to make the above Christmas potpourri with essential oils* click here

9. Wood burning fire – Imagine it’s snowing outside, and you’re sitting by the fire with your loved ones, hot chocolate in hand. The smell of burning wood as the fire roars away, the warmth and comfort felt from within is second to none and what Christmas is all about.

10. Cloves – Cloves are also traditionally used in oranges in Christingles. They are pressed into the skin to form patterns, and their scent can take over our homes too.

Don’t forget you can also bring the fragrance of cloves along with many other scents on this list, into your home by lighting a clove infused scented candle*.

11. Ginger – The adorable Gingerbread House and Gingerbread man are such classics at Christmas, and a delight for children to decorate. Like many of the other spices, ginger smells delicious when used in cooking and fills the home with festive aromas.

Father and daughter decorating Christmas Gingerbread House

According to Purdue University:

“Some historians claim Queen Elizabeth I popularised gingerbread men by decorating them in the likeness of members of her court and guests. Other culinary historians claim the idea of cookie houses adorned with candy was born out of German folktales that the Grimm Brothers wrote about Hansel and Gretel”.

12. Rosemary – Leaving the best smell until last, there is not much more I can say than – rosemary covered roast potatoes!

* Remember not to use essential oils around pets.