Five festive scents

Five festive scents

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.”  Diane Ackerman – A Natural History of the Senses


I love Ackerman’s description of the effect that smell has on memory, especially at this time of year.

I’ve tried to capture some of the most evocative blends of the festive season in my list of five:

  • Sweet Orange and Clove Bud (citrus sinensis and syzgium aromaticum) is warming, uplifting and gently relaxing with memories of mulled wine and pomanders.
  • Cinnamon and Ginger (cinnamomom zeylanicum and zingiber officinale) is stimulating and restorative and reminds us of festive baking and sweet treats.
  • Pine and Cedarwood (pinus sylvestris and cedrus atlantica) is fortifying and comforting with thoughts of winter walks and frozen forests.
  • Frankincense and Myrrh (boswellia thurifera and commiphora molmol) is calming and promotes inner stillness and peace.  Good for spiritual or religious meditations.
  • Mandarin and Black Pepper (citrus reticulata and piper nigrum) is gently warming and comforting with memories of festive gatherings and fun.

The oils should be true essential oils (not fragrance oils or synthetic oils) which is why I’ve included the Latin names.  The best way to use the above blends would be to:

  1. Choose your blend
  2. Either add two drops of each oil to water and use in an oil burner or diffuser, or add a couple of drops of each oil to a teaspoon of vodka and 50ml of filtered water to be used as a room spray (shake well before use).

What are your favourite scents and smells at this time of year?  What memories do the scents of the festive season bring back for you?




Jewels · December 11, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I love that quote about the effects scents have on our memories, it’s so true! The blends you list sound wonderful! I adore the combination of orange and clove at this time of year! My daughter and I were just out purchasing a few new oils the other day to make our lip balm with, and I smelled a frankincense and myrrh blend that really spoke to me, I didn’t buy it because we were on a different mission at the time, but I may have to go back there and get it. 🙂

    elizabethmilligan · December 11, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Yes, it is a nice quote and so true. I love the woody, balmy, smoky aroma of the frankincense and myrrh together. Nice when you’re staring into a fire with a glass of wine in your hand just contemplating…….
    The lip balms sound good – great idea at this time of year!

itsjoelwood · December 13, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Pines got to be the best! I’ve just wrote a blog on the Christmas Season, have a look and see if you agree! Thanks.

Rhianne · December 18, 2013 at 10:59 am

Oh my, mandarin and black pepper sounds amazing, I would never have thought of that!

    elizabethmilligan · December 29, 2013 at 11:30 am

    I really like it as black pepper adds a nice warm, dry, earthy tone to the fresh mandarin smell – lovely for this time of year.

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