The holiday season means more time with friends, more time with family, and more time indoors. The air gets chilly, the weather turns gray, and the vibes turn cozy — and there's really no better way to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere than with scented candles.
The flickering flame of a candle instantly creates a comfy environment, and when you choose seasonal scents, it brings an extra layer of warm, holiday-season happiness. There are many different scents to explore, from woodsy to gourmand to spicy, and the right candle can subtly elevate your space without overwhelming your senses.
Let’s talk about why everyone loves scented candles during the holiday season, and which scents best capture the essence of this time of year with five of the best holiday candles.
Why Everyone Loves Scented Candles During the Holiday Season
The holiday season and candles go hand-in-hand. Candles can create a full sensory experience that triggers olfactory memories (some of your most powerful memories, connected to scent). “Olfactory” can sound pretty complex, but it’s actually quite simple — here’s a closer look at what olfactory memories are and how they factor into your love for scented candles.
It's no secret that your sense of smell is connected to memory and emotion. Think about the way the smell of vanilla extract reminds you of baking Christmas cookies with your family, or the smell of tulips reminds you of early spring days as a child.
The scents of the holiday season, like fresh pine, peppermint, sugar cookies, candy canes, spices, and other baked goods, can bring back vivid memories of loved ones, family dinners, and holiday decorating. In other words, scented candles have a pretty unique ability to bring back a whole range of cherished memories and warm, fuzzy feelings.
To get sciencey, you have an olfactory bulb that goes from your nose to the base of your brain, where your amygdala and hippocampus are located. The amygdala is responsible for processing emotion, and the hippocampus is connected to memory and cognition.
Think of the olfactory bulb as a pathway from the outside world straight to your emotions and memories. Your brain basically learns to associate certain smells with specific emotional memories.
When you smell something like pine or Frasier fir, you might have a rush of memories of decorating the Christmas tree growing up. One study even found that your brain activity lights up more with smell than it does with visual stimuli. You might see a picture of a Christmas tree, but the same rush of memories won't come on as strong as it does when you smell a Christmas tree.
Ambiance and Coziness
The holiday season means a drop in temperature, making us crave all things warm and comfortable. Scented candles can bring a level of ambiance and coziness during the cold weather season — the soft, flickering glow and inviting scent of a candle creates a snug environment in your space and wraps you in the holiday spirit.
What Scents Should You Reach for Around the Holiday Season?
When choosing holiday candle scents, think about what you naturally smell, and enjoy smelling, during this time of year. Maybe there are some specific woodsy or gourmand scents that capture the season, or maybe you love the fresh, earthy elements of the colder months.
Here are some classic smells that can help infuse your home with holiday cheer:
The smell of fresh fir trees brings back the joy of picking out and decorating a Christmas tree or hanging wreaths and garlands on your door. Fir is a quintessential holiday scent that adds a touch of nature to your indoor space and has a light, fresh smell.
If there’s one scent that’s a true classic as soon as fall rolls around, it’s pumpkin. Pumpkin scents fully capture the spirit of fall and Thanksgiving, and they stay cozy and inviting all the way through winter. Lighting a pumpkin candle can build up the anticipation of pumpkin pies, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread… we could go on, but we’ll stop there. Pumpkin is a sweet, comforting smell that’s perfect for bringing some comfy autumn vibes into your space.
Spices used in traditional holiday recipes can be the perfect scents for candle enthusiasts. For example, cinnamon and cardamom can create a warm and inviting atmosphere during the holiday season, and they’re both popular in holiday treats like pies, gingerbread, and warm chai lattes.
Vanilla is a timeless scent that blends seamlessly with other holiday fragrances. We’d argue that it’s seasonless, too, thanks to its versatility — but if you find yourself even more tempted by vanilla fragrances during the holiday season, we understand why. Vanilla has a sweet and comforting aroma that can add depth and richness to your home and remind you of birthday cakes, fresh-baked cookies, and frosting.
It may be too cold to spend a lot of time outside, but you can still get your nature fix with the right candle. Woodsy scents like sandalwood and cedarwood bring a touch of nature into your home so you don’t even have to leave your couch. They give a grounding and earthy element to your space that’s perfect for sitting by a wood fire and reading a good book.
What Are the Best Holiday Candles To Spice Up the Season?
Let’s dive into five of our favorite holiday candle options to light up the season, transform your space, and create those warm, cozy vibes we all know and love. Holiday candles can even make the perfect holiday gift — and all Snif's candles use a high-quality blend of vegetable and soy wax and pure cotton wicks to make them last all season long.
1. Old Saint Wick
Add one of Oprah's Favorite Things to your home with Old Saint Wick, a fresh-cut candle that features Siberian pine, creamy sandalwood, fir balsam, and apple blossom for a merry and bright burn. Whether you're hosting extended family or having a night in enjoying some hot chocolate during a snowstorm, this is one of the best Christmas candles for the colder months… and it also makes the perfect gift.
2. Lost Claus
Start plating the cookies and pouring the milk, because Lost Claus is coming to town. This spicy, sweet scent combines a comforting blend of holiday spices, smoked marshmallows, gingerbread, creamy musks, and vetiver for a candle you'll want to burn every day to keep the holiday spirit going strong.
3. Half Baked Gingerbread Smash
Half Baked Gingerbread Smash smells like being home for the holidays. We collaborated with Tieghan Gerard of Half Baked Harvest to bring you this festive candle with spiced gingerbread, chai, frothy vanilla and spiked eggnog. It’s the perfect way to make your space smell like a delicious batch of holiday cookies without needing to do the dishes.
4. Half Baked Pumpkin Smash
The Half Baked Pumpkin Smash is another limited-edition candle by Tieghan Gerard that returns for the holiday season. This pumpkin candle creates the coziest fall burn to enhance your space with a mix of pumpkin spice, cinnamon stick, brûléed orange, salted maple, roasted chocolate, and a dash of whiskey. From festive dinner parties to date nights and everything in between, this holiday candle has you covered all season long.
5. Instant Karma
Instant Karma is a dark and whimsical candle with only the best intentions. Its spicy and warm scent comes from a creamy blend of cardamom, cinnamon, and vetiver for a sensual vibe that sets the mood.
6. Way With Woods
Way with Woods is a fan-favorite, crisp candle that brings the scent of the woods inside with white tea, mandarin, sandalwood, and amber woods. This scent is perfect for anyone craving the great outdoors without having to leave the comfort of home.
A Holiday To Remember
Candles create a cozy ambiance perfect for the holiday season. Whether you prefer the fresh scent of balsam fir or the comforting smell of pumpkin, there's a holiday candle just waiting to spice up your season — and they make some of the best gifts for your loved ones (or yourself).