How to Make Your House Smell Like the Holidays

Recently, my husband and I made a quick getaway to experience autumn in the tiny town of Lititz, Penn. The fall colors were at their peak; the air crisp with just an occasional sprinkling of rain. In a word? Perfect.


We bundled up to take in a street festival, wandered through tiny shops, and cheered the sounds of a local one-man band who brought new meaning to the word ‘talent.’ We ate delicious local fare and drank coffee. Lots of coffee.

But the thing that I will forever associate with Lititz is the scent that rushed my olfactory bulb as we walked into our hotel. It seems that the Hilton folks have taken The Wilbur Chocolate Factory—an American Original since 1884—and brought it back to life as The Wilbur Lititz, now part of its Tapestry Collection.

The place smells like chocolate! And why not? The original brick walls both inside and out have been carefully preserved. I can only imagine how much chocolate came out of that place in 135 years of production. We couldn’t help but mention this subtle delight to the concierge, who with a wink said, “Oh that? We pipe it in!”

Today, the aroma of a home or office is big business. Scent branding is in vogue across a range of industries, including hotels that often pump their signature scents into rooms and lobbies, noted the authors of a 2018 Harvard Business Review article.

Whether it’s gingerbread, cinnamon, or yes, even the smell of gift wrap, the scents of Christmas are a vital—but often overlooked—part of what makes the season merry and bright. The aromas of pine and peppermint instantly signal that the holiday season has arrived. The scents of Christmas send us back through the years—straight to our childhoods.

I’ve decided that this year, I’m going to follow the lead of the Wilbur Lititz management team. I am going to “pipe in” the scents of Christmas with great intention.

Fresh Greenery


Artificial garlands, trees, and wreaths are visually dead ringers for the real thing—bringing so much beauty to our homes, but they do lack the beautiful scent. Nothing beats the smell of fresh-cut pine.

To achieve an authentic pine aroma, use fresh greenery wherever you can. If you don’t have this available from your own yard or a generous neighbors’, fresh Christmas tree lots are anxious to sell the boughs they cut from the tree trunks, which come off as they prepare the lot. Typically those scraps of pine are cheap and just perfect for making wreaths. covering mantels and filling the place with the scent of freshly cut pine.

Scented firestarters



If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, you’re going to love this. Make your own firestarters that will help you get that blaze going but also scent your home in the most delightful way. (What a great gift idea!)

To get started you will need: beeswax (or soy), bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, tiny pine cones, dried rosemary, cotton wicks, paper muffin liners and a muffin pan.

You will find the complete instructions and a photo tutorial for how to make scented firestarters at Hello Glow.

Fresh pomanders

It’s a tradition that goes back centuries, and coming soon to a preschool near you! Making pomanders by stuffing cloves and other spices into the rind of oranges is a simple craft project even the kids will enjoy. This releases the oil from the orange rind, allowing its pungent fragrance to mix with the spice aroma.

And don’t toss those pomanders out after the holidays. Let them cure. Even in their dried-up condition, they should last for many years.

Scented pinecones

Cinnamon scented pinecones just showed up in my local supermarket with a big price tag on a small-ish bag. Why buy them when it’s pretty easy to make scented pinecones ourselves?

Gather pinecones that will have by now fallen from evergreen trees in parks and neighborhoods. Wash and dry them. Once completely dry, spritz them with a solution of water and essential oil in your choice of fragrance. Cinnamon, apple, and orange are nice choices. Try mixing them to come up with your signature blend. Once well-saturated, seal the pinecones in a plastic bag for 24 hours. Remove and allow to air-dry.

Simmer pot


Photo: CountryLiving

This is so easy! Fill a cooking pot with water. Drop in things that smell good like cinnamon sticks (this is a great way to use up old spices that are way past prime, but too good to throw out), pine sprigs, orange peel, clove, nutmeg, and cardamom. Set that pot to simmer on the stovetop or Low in a slow cooker. Don’t cover it. Allow it to simmer, check on it from time to time (to make sure it hasn’t boiled dry), adding water as necessary. You can find more specific recipes with detailed instructions here at Country Living.

Peppermint spray

You can buy it but why do that when you can make it for a lot less? The simple recipe is 8 oz. of water and 20 drops of peppermint essential oil or peppermint extract. Pour it into a spray bottle, preferably glass. Spritz the air, the furniture, pillows—even the draperies. You’ll achieve a subtle, lovely candy-cane atmosphere—Christmas scent!





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8 replies
  1. Anne Shelton says:

    Our Home Depot gladly gives away their fir trimmings. I had a great time last year incorporating long and short stems in multiple arrangements. They stayed fresh for weeks — even those not in water!! Loved it!!

  2. Veronica Nightingale says:

    I grew up on Long Island, so Lancaster County was a great weekend destination. I have been to Lititz a number of times and visited the Wilbur Chocolate factory years ago. Beautiful town! I printed a number of your recipes for ways to give your house a Christmas smell. Thanks so much!

  3. Debra L Eshleman-Bitts says:

    Mary – You have no idea how excited I was to read that you visited our wonderful town – Lititz PA!!!!!.
    We were once voted the “Coolest Small Town in America” – Google it!
    Hometown spirit is alive and well here – fabulous small town businesses – Come back to visit again!
    Deb Eshleman Bitts

  4. Sherry Morgan says:

    I live in CT and love (!) all the outdoor scents of nature! And thank you so much for the simmer pot recipes…. I used to use a great one but haven’t used it in a while.

  5. Gina Stevens says:

    Mary, your article was a mini vacation taking me to the wonderful world of seasons. My new hometown has endearing qualities, but seasons are only seen inside my home. I miss that first smell of fall and, yes, snow has a smell, springs smells of hyacinths, etc. Now, I’ll use your tips to create some “fragrances” to enhance my “indoor seasons.”


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