The smell of snickerdoodles in the oven, or a fresh-cut evergreen wreath is all many of us need to get in the holiday spirit. Scent is an important element that affects human emotion. In fact, the sense of smell has the strongest connection to our memories. All of us associate scents with events in our lives. Something baking in the oven, the seashore, a carnival or even a freshly turned garden can evoke memories of days long gone. Here at holiday time, the scents of the season helps put us in a festive mood.
Cinnamon is the number one holiday scent
Cinnamon is probably the number one scent of the holidays and most likely the number one spice that most of us commonly use. Cookies, cakes, eggnog, mulled wine or even sweet potatoes are all holiday foods that bring out the best in cinnamon. This ancient spice originated in the Indian Ocean island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and was a coveted trade item for thousands of years. Mainly used as a meat preservative and flavoring at that time, cinnamon has never lost any of its popularity. Today, even the most humble of pantries will almost certainly contain cinnamon. Cinnamon makes a home smell like a celebration.
Nutmeg scent reminds us of apple pie
Nutmeg is another spice that makes the season nice. It is native to Indonesia and has been loved by humans for years uncounted. The warm, sweet scent brings out the best in baked goods, meats, drinks and yes, even as incense. Apple pie and eggnog are the most familiar modern uses for this beloved spice, however you can't make a carrot cake or creamed spinach without it either.
Cloves are a warm and inviting holiday scent
Cloves are another popular spice that people have coveted for centuries. It is also native to the islands of Indonesia. The odd little nail-shaped pieces are actually unopened flower buds of an evergreen tree. Historically used in sweet desserts, drinks and savory vegetable dishes. Clove oil was also used as a toothache treatment and an insect repellent. The flavor and aroma are so strong, a little goes a long way.
Vanilla is not just for cooking
Vanilla is another spice that is found in many pantries. Vanilla is derived from the seed pods of an orchid plant that was originally native to Mexico, however commercial cultivation is now found around the world. It is most often used in sweet desserts and drinks and just about every home has a bottle of the extract. It is quite easy to make. All you need are vanilla beans and vodka. Just split four or five vanilla beans lengthwise and pop in a bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Pour vodka over to cover, put the lid on and forget about it for six or seven months. That's all there is to it.
Add some citrus and savory scents to your holiday home
These four common spices are all you need for a tasty holiday season. Yes, there are more and even the savory ones like rosemary and sage have their place in the kitchen. Add fresh-cut cedar to the mix and your holiday house will smell terrific. However, we all know that you can't keep something cooking all the time. We just want it to smell like there is. All of these spices make great natural potpourri. Many people are also wary of candles these days. They feel the artificial scents and the petroleum-based paraffin used could be harmful to their health. Regardless whether it is, I still prefer natural scents above artificial ones. The natural scents aren't as harsh and cloying. Some people even say they can smell the petroleum as it burns. The petroleum-based candles are cheap and plentiful. Soy wax is a healthier alternative, however the candles are more expensive and many households simply can't afford the luxury. You can still have a special holiday smell in your house and it comes right from your pantry.
Holiday scents on the stove
This time of year, and anytime I want to chase unwanted odors from my home, I simply put a small saucepan on the stove filled with water and add a few spices. A sprinkle of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla even chases salmon odors from the kitchen. Get creative with your scents. Use rosemary and lemon slices, cloves and oranges, or vanilla and nutmeg. Just heat the water to just below boiling and let it simmer on the stove. You can even use a mini-crock pot if you don't want to use the stove. The scents are pleasant, natural and not overwhelming. They can take unwanted odors away or set the stage for a cheerful family gathering. Add a few pine needles or cedar tips to the pot, maybe with some lemon peel. The smell will be fresh and clean. It is also a very inexpensive way to make your home smell great.