AS I SIT AND WRITE THIS, THE ROOM FLOATS WITH THE HEADY SCENT of citrus, clove, pine, and cinnamon. It's truly amazing how our sense of smell is so deeply, intimately connected with nostalgia, tradition, and comfort, and nothing signals the start of the holiday season quite like the hum of your family favourite carols, trimming the tree, and the scent of Christmas. This Christmas, though, let's turn to nature to fill our homes with the delicious aromatics we enjoy so much rather than synthetic scents. It's tempting to fall prey to the never-ending Christmas candles on sale this time of year, but as delicious as they smell at the time, trust us, nothing compares to the real thing. And it's so very, delightfully simple. These two easy projects will do just the trick, so as you prepare your home for the holidays this year, start here—it will carry you back to just the right place, where fond childhood memories co-mingle with the bright new ones you'll create year after year.
When it comes to what Christmas smells like to you, well I can't even begin to guess. Perhaps the sweet spicy scent of gingerbread, or the pungent smell of fresh-cut pine. In this case, we went for a rather traditional blend that will never fail to disappoint or conjure up a little bit of cheer: orange or clementine, cinnamon, cloves, and pine.
Aromatic simmering pots are nothing new but they are fool-proof and effective so it was worth mentioning them. To make your own, simply fill a small pot half-full with water, and drop in a few slices of orange or, even better, some bits of peel from all those Christmas clementines, a sprig of fresh pine, two cinnamon sticks, and five or so pieces of all-spice berries and cloves. Place on the stove and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and allow to gently simmer—the steam will permeate every corner of your house. You can add fresh water two or three times as the mixture gets more and more concentrated. For a more romantic and energy-efficient version, after initially bringing the pot to a boil, use a fondue set and a tealight and place on the dining room table.
The second project is something you likely remember doing as a small child, the perfect, time consuming busy work for young kids while mom gets a few things done, but something I turn to as an adult as nothing beats the smell. It amazes me every year just how pungent clove-studded oranges can be. Simply puncture the skin of a fresh orange with fresh cloves—the pointy end slides right in, like using a push pin. Arrange in whatever pattern you like and place in a dish wherever you would most enjoy the smell. The clove-studded oranges will last for a considerable time, just keep checking them periodically for signs of decay, compost and start again. I usually find they last about two weeks.