Smell is the sense most closely tied to memory, which helps explain the rush of nostalgic feelings that flood our brains when we step into a home that smells like the holidays. It's the accumulated memories of years gone by—delivered straight to your brain via your nose.
When we think about the real essence of the holidays, visions of grandma’s cookies, a towering, fresh-cut Christmas tree, and spiced apple cider dance in our heads. But store-bought candles, sprays, and air fresheners usually miss the mark, delivering chemical fragrances that smell more like bathroom cleaner than a fresh pine tree. So this year, opt for simple DIYs with real ingredients to evoke the warmest memories—and help create new ones you'll never forget.
This DIY has been around since the Middle Ages, and there’s a reason it's become the quintessential holiday scent. The spicy citrus aroma of clove oranges is intoxicating, and they’re decorative as well. Plus, creating a stunning clove-studded orange is so easy! Just take a whole orange (or even a grapefruit or apple), poke some holes into the rind with a toothpick or pin, and insert individual cloves into each hole—as many as you’d like! Place the orange on the rim of a jar and store it anywhere around the house to permeate the air with this delectable scent.
APPLE-CINNAMON SIMMER POT
For a yummy holiday fragrance that starts in the kitchen and makes its way through the entire house, boil the following ingredients in a pot of water, then reduce to a low simmer.
1 apple, sliced
3 cinnamon sticks, halved
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 to 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
PINE-CINNAMON SIMMER POT
For a simple scent that embodies Christmas trees and holiday spice, create a simmer pot with a handful or two of pine needles and two to three cinnamon sticks, halved.
NO-BAKE CHRISTMAS COOKIE SCENT
To create a sweet, oven-baked scent without the cookies, combine palmfuls of cinnamon, allspice, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and half of a vanilla bean into a pot and simmer in water. (Or, bake some cookies, because you know you want to. Even if you're not a baker, you can still have your cookies—and eat them too.)
Forget about those synthetic-smelling diffusers at the store. Who knew it was so easy to DIY this sophisticated room fragrance? All you need is:
Small recycled glass bottle
14 drops orange oil
8 drops clove oil
8 drops pine oil
8 drops cinnamon oil
10 drops cedarwood oil
2 tablespoons vodka
1 cup water
Drop essential oils into the bottle and diffuse with vodka (to absorb the oils). Then, just add water! Insert the bamboo skewers into the bottle, allow to soak for 24 hours, then reverse the skewers to soak the opposite ends. Rotate the ends of the skewers weekly.
CHRISTMAS SPIRIT SPRAY
The trifecta of orange, pine, and cinnamon creates the warmest, most invigorating aroma of Christmas. Capture this spirit in a simple room spray that can be spritzed all over the home. Start with four drops of orange oil, three drops of pine oil, and three drops of cinnamon oil—you can do as much as 16, 12, and 12 drops, respectively. Drop the oils into a glass spray bottle, dilute with one tablespoon vodka, and fill with six tablespoons water. Intoxicating!
Create some aromatic fire magic by adding one drop of orange or cinnamon essential oil per log and lighting it up in the fireplace—a next-level way to experience a cozy fireside snuggle.
Adding mulling spices to your drink of choice creates a nostalgic holiday scent throughout the kitchen that you can sip up, too. Simmer the spices in apple cider or red wine for a fragrant holiday beverage. Cheers!