8 Nostalgic Scents That Will Make Your Home Smell Like Christmas

What's Christmas morning without the scent of bread pudding baking in the kitchen? 

Olive branch garland
Photo: Photography: Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Page Mullins

What Christmas smells inspire your favorite holiday tradition? Is it the Christmas smell of cinnamon star cookies, or possibly a favorite Christmas smell (and flavor) is the first bite of chocolate peppermint cheesecake? No matter your cherished seasonal tradition, certain Christmas smells play a big part in your memory-making process.

"As a floral designer, my sense of smell is heightened on a daily basis. With so many lovely scents like peonies, roses, lilies, chamomile, stock, lavender, daffodil, magnolia, and lilac, I create memories through scents every day," shares Megan Cooley, owner and creative designer of Meg's Flower Market in Ringgold, Georgia.

While little moments that remind us of our youth and upbringing during the day-to-day occurrences are special, the scents that spark Christmas memories are even more special. These Christmas scents are nostalgic. "I have had so many customers come in and ask if I had a specific flower in stock because their grandmother use to have them throughout the house, or in her yard," says Cooley. The quest to incorporate nostalgic seasonal scents, like peppermint or Balsam Fir, is a given as soon as the calendar flips to December. "During the holiday season, when I open a box of Christmas greens at the shop, I find myself reminiscing about my childhood," she adds.

Here are eight nostalgic scents of Christmas—go ahead and incorporate these Christmas smells into your home with candles, baked goods, and holiday decor.

01 of 08

Pine, Fir, and Cedar

Pine Garland and Ornaments on Dining Table
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Page Mullins

No doubt the fresh notes of Christmas trees looming in the family drawing room stirs up all the warm and fuzzy feelings of Christmas. "As I breathe in the smell of pine, fir, and cedar, I am transported to a time when my family would cut a fresh Christmas tree and bring it home to decorate," Cooley recalls. "My mother always put fresh-cut Christmas greens on the mantel and tables."

02 of 08

Freshly Baked Cookies

5-Ingredient Sugar Cookies
Linda Pugliese, Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas, Buffy Hargett Miller

Freshly baked cookies go with Christmas like biscuits and gravy. Whether you make your holiday cookies ready to eat or froze some for later, the scent of baking cookies means Christmas.

"In my case, it's the smell of my mother's sugar cookies," recalls Cooley. "When we smelled the sugar cookies baking, we were filled with excitement knowing that once they cooled off, we could decorate them together."

03 of 08


peppermints martini
Photographer: Frederick Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Dickey, Prop Stylist: Christina Daley

Peppermint is yet another classic nostalgic Christmas scent. You can incorporate peppermint into your home with essential oils or a modern twist, a batch (or two) of peppermint cocktails.

04 of 08

Yule Log Fire

Trim the Fireplace
Get inspired by winter nature, and layer lush holiday greenery across your home's center mantelpiece. This luxurious decoration will make your living room magazine-worthy. Across the top of your mantel, arrange a thick length of garland. Wire a thick green bow in the middle, and then artfully weave the ribbon tails throughout the greenery. Work in pinecones, berry branches, berries, and various greenery sprigs for layers of holiday color and texture. Take your holiday mantel from average to amazing with this creative DIY Christmas decoration idea. Hang a wreath above the center of the mantel for the perfect festive finishing touch. Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Long before Netflix fireplaces, there was the annual holiday tradition of lighting the Yule Log. During the 12 days of Christmas, a family would burn their Yule Log each day, moving the log deeper and deeper in the fire.

"That smell made me feel so many things at home," Cooley says. "We spent time laughing and sharing stories together with our family around that crackling fire. Whenever I smell a fire, I am quickly back at home with my family and feel the joy we shared together."

05 of 08


Chocolate-Gingerbread Christmas Tree Cookies
Joy Howard

Is there anything more fun than decorating gingerbread cookies? Another holiday scent synonymous with the Christmas season is true, gingerbread.

"My grandmother's best friend would make gingerbread people for us each year. She would put them in a tin and hand-deliver them to us a few days before Christmas. We would open the tin and the smell of gingerbread would beg us to eat one; we could almost taste it just from the smell," recalls Cooley.

06 of 08

Fresh Camellias

Pink and White Camellias
Getty/Frank Bienewald /Contributor

The Yuletide camellia is a Southern holiday flower that has vibrant red blossoms with glossy green foliage. This festive flower's looks and sweet scent conjure magical holiday memories. When arranging this beautiful Yuletide flower into your holiday bouquets, the scent and sight can transport you to watching your mother once doing the same.

07 of 08

Bread Pudding

Holiday Gingerbread Pudding
Jennifer Davick; Styling: Lydia DeGaris Pursell

In the South, bread pudding is a holiday dinner staple. The sweet, caramel and bourbon scents baking in a deep dish pan evoke memories of Christmas morning. We can hear the oven timer right now.

08 of 08

Pumpkin Bread

Gingerbread Pumpkin Roll
Via Tabelspoon

From September right until the end of December, it's pumpkin spice and everything nice. Baking pumpkin bread is another nostalgic Christmas smell.

"My mom would bake pumpkin bread and butter braids for us to eat on Christmas morning, The pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg mixed with pine and firewood pull me into my memories of my family and home." Cooley concludes her spiced-warm scented memory, sharing, "These same scents are a part of my home now at Christmas time."

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