There's nothing like the smell of evergreen or cinnamon to bring on all the Christmas feels. A scented candle is a great start, but there are other easy ways to add to the cheer and put the fragrance of the holidays in the air, too. Learn how to make your house smell like Christmas and welcome guests with all the nostalgic scents they remember from holidays of the past — plus discover fresh twists and new ideas to make those scents your own.
Create a Christmas Potpourri
Potpourri is a classic choice for adding any type of pleasant scent to your home. You might remember smelling super strong dried potpourri at your grandmother's house, but like her overstuffed chintz sofa, it was probably just too much. Instead of fake-smelling dried potpourri, make your own fresh holiday version with a few simple fruits and spices. You can boil these items to make it smell like Christmas.
The ingredients you choose are up to you, but for a traditional Christmas scent, go for cranberries, citrus, pine, cinnamon, and cloves. You can also add essential oils in these scents or a small amount of vanilla extract. There's no wrong answer here, but a good starting point is four cups of water, one sliced orange, one cup of cranberries, one tablespoon of cloves, three cinnamon sticks, and 3-4 drops of essential oils.
Put all the ingredients in a pot of lightly boiling water to make your kitchen, and even your whole house, smell divine.
Make a Clove Orange
You may have seen clove-studded oranges, also known as pomanders, hanging in historic homes during the holidays. The combined scents of citrus and spice are perfect for making your home smell festive, especially if you have an apartment or smaller space. The origin of this traditional Christmas craft isn't nearly as sweet as the scented orange itself; in fact, people used to make pomanders to mask the foul smells of unwashed bodies back in the Medieval era.
Since we are lucky enough to live in the age of deodorant, you can make one just as a holiday decoration that gives your home a beautiful Christmas smell. All you have to do is pick up a nice, firm orange and insert whole cloves into it in any pattern you like.
If you have any trouble getting the cloves to go through the orange peel, use an embroidery needle or toothpick to make the holes first.
Mix Up a Batch of Chai
Traditional chai is a delicious cold-weather treat, whether you buy it from the coffee shop or make it yourself. The advantage of making it, however, is the wonderful holiday scent. There are many variations on chai, and you can choose your favorite spices to give your home the scent you have in mind. The added plus is that you'll have a delicious drink to serve guests, too.
To make chai, boil the spices of your choice in about two cups of water. You'll want to include cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and anise, but you can adjust the amounts based on your preference. A good starting point is two cinnamon sticks, two cloves, a small piece of ginger (sliced), two anise stars, and two cardamom pods. Add a couple of black tea bags and boil for about five minutes.
To finish the chai off, add a cup of milk and a tablespoon of sugar, then cook on low heat for another five minutes. Strain the spices and serve.
Dry Some Orange Slices
Drying orange slices is another double-duty way to make your house smell like Christmas. You get the dried oranges, which smell wonderful and make great decorations for wreaths, wrapped presents, and more. And you also get to smell the orange slices as you dry them on low heat in your oven. It's a fresh and festive aroma that will fill your whole house.
To make dried oranges, cut your favorite orange varieties into thin slices — less than ¼ inch is ideal. Blot off any excess liquid and lay the oranges on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 200°F for about three hours, checking them every 30 minutes or so. Flip them each time you check so they dry evenly on both sides. Remove them from the oven if they're starting to look dark.
Hang Up a Real Evergreen Garland
There are few scents as powerfully nostalgic as the smell of a real Christmas tree. Even if you can't (or prefer not to) have a real tree in your home or apartment, you can get that same beautiful smell by hanging up an evergreen garland. One great thing about this is that you can scale the garland to fit the space or your home.
If you have a small place, a short garland over the fireplace works perfectly. For a larger home, a garland going up the stairway banister or around the inside of the front door can make your entire house smell festive.
You can buy a garland at Christmas tree lots or hardware stores, or you can make your own by twisting floral wire around evergreen boughs. Give your garland personality and extra scent by adding cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices, cranberries, or candy canes.
Make or Buy Some Christmas-Scented Soap
A beautiful scented soap can make your whole bathroom smell like Christmas, and guests will love using it to wash their hands. Some of the best holiday scents include cinnamon and pine, but you can try any smell that reminds you of the holidays. Handmade gift shops and farmer's markets have homemade soap for sale, and you can find festive scents starting a few months before the holidays.
Alternatively, you can make your own Christmas soap by using a melt-and-pour soap base from any craft store. You can melt the soap in the microwave and add your favorite essential oils for that holiday smell. Craft stores also have dyes and soap molds you can use to add color and shape to your soap creation.
Bake a Little Vanilla Extract
Baking some vanilla extract at a low temperature can make your whole house smell like Christmas cookies — without all the work. You can experiment by adding other scents, too, such as a few orange slices, some cinnamon, a couple of cloves, or anything else you like. The smell lasts for hours and will make guests feel super welcome.
All you have to do is add a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract to the bottom of a baking pan. Bake it on low heat for around an hour.
Add Scent to Pinecones
Because pinecones are so porous, they hold on to holiday smells beautifully. Place a few scented pinecones in a dish on your coffee table to make your living room smell like Christmas.
You can buy scented pinecones or use our simple instructions to make your own. Pick up a dozen pinecones on your next walk and wash them well with soap and water. Allow them to dry, and then put them in a zip-top plastic bag with a few drops of essential oils. Go for traditional Christmas scents like peppermint, cinnamon, or citrus.
Leave the pinecones in the bag for about two weeks. When the holiday season is here, just dump them out into a pretty bowl.
Save (and Display) Your Orange Peels
Orange peels have a wonderful holiday scent, and they're a great way to make your house smell Christmasy. Displayed in pretty, flower-like coils, they make a lovely decoration. Pair them with some pine boughs or winterberry branches to complete the look.
Just save all your orange peels in a bag in your fridge for a few days. When you're ready to have guests over and want a festive display, roll each peel into a loose coil and place them together in a bowl.
Make a Christmas Wreath With Sage
For a different holiday scent that will remind guests of the joy of sharing a meal with family, add sage to a wreath. Sage is a traditional herb for turkey and other savory holiday dishes, and it's a strong and pleasant scent to add to your home.
You can use a pre-made wreath or make one yourself with pine boughs. Either way, simply wire fresh sage in among the other greenery. A couple of packs of fresh sage from the grocery store should be plenty to give a lovely Christmas smell to any room or to a small apartment.
Set a Fragrant Holiday Table
If you're hosting Christmas dinner or having a holiday dinner party, you can give the dinner table a beautiful and festive scent by adding evergreen boughs to your place settings. Tie a few small boughs in with the silverware and set them at each place. You can also create a simple wreath to go around each plate.
Another option is to make a holiday centerpiece that has evergreens in it. Adding some fragrant greenery is a great way to decorate the holiday table, and it will make your whole dining room smell like Christmas.
Wrap Gifts With Scented Decorations
For a subtle way to make your house smell like the holidays, use high-scent items to decorate wrapped gifts. Options include sprigs of evergreen, dried oranges, cinnamon sticks, and more. You can wrap gifts several days before the holiday and let the pretty smell linger under your Christmas tree.
For extra wow factor, keep the rest of the package decorations simple. Use plain or subtly patterned wrapping paper and neutral twine, ribbon, or lace. Then, tie on the sweet-smelling decorations. The presents will smell almost too good to open.
Brew a Pot of Mint Tea
Fragrant tea can make your whole kitchen or dining room smell pretty, and there's nothing like a cozy cup when it's a winter wonderland out there. Invite guests in for tea that smells like a delicious Christmas candy cane.
Choose mint herbal tea or black tea with peppermint and brew up a big pot. As it's steeping, the aroma of mint will float through the room. Serve it in your favorite teacups with sugar cubes and a few Christmas cookies.
Create Fragrant Ornaments for Your Tree
A Christmas tree already smells pretty, but you can make it smell even better by making your own wax ornaments. The standard cinnamon dough creations you made in grade school are fabulous too, but these wax creations allow more room for customization.
You'll need beeswax, which is available in any craft store. Melt the wax in a double boiler over low heat until it's liquified. Then pour it into a muffin tin or holiday molds.
Before the wax cools, add your favorite aromatic mix-ins. Great options include cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and dried citrus. Drill a small hole in the ornament once it's cool, and use twine or ribbon to hang it from your tree.
Make Scented Pine Cone Fire Starters
Pine cones make great kindling for starting a cozy fire, and they also give you a chance to add some warm holiday smells to your home. A great benefit of this option is that you can customize the scent you want.
After you've gathered your pine cones, melt some candle wax (available in any craft store). Mix in your favorite essential oils, such as clove, cinnamon, or mint. Place pinecones in each section of a cardboard egg carton and carefully pour the melted wax into the carton and over the pinecone. Add a twine wick to make lighting the fire starters easier.
Fill the Stockings With Fragrance
Christmas stockings make a bright and cheery holiday decoration, and there's no need to wait until the night before Christmas to hang them up. You can display them as soon as you put up the rest of your decorations, and they offer a great opportunity to add some subtle holiday fragrance.
If you have extra evergreen sprigs from making other decorations, tuck them into the stockings. Clip them into small enough pieces that they will easily fit inside. Allow them to rest in the stockings during the holiday season, adding a little extra scent to your living room.
Choose Your Favorite Christmas Scent
You'd have to be a Scrooge not to love the smell of Christmas, and there are so many great ways to add scents like spice, citrus, mint, and evergreen to your home. Whether you live in an apartment or a large house, choose your favorite scent and display it in a way that works for you.