Smells and Spaces: Christmas Traditions

When you think back to your childhood Christmas, what are your dearest memories?

For me it’s my grandmother’s Italian cookies, my mom’s vintage white porcelain nativity set with a pearlized glaze. It’s driving down that one street in our neighborhood that got LIT UP. It’s the smell of the Douglas Fir my dad always got the day after Thanksgiving.

Smells and spaces.

I can’t think of one holiday memory that doesn’t include these two things.
There are actually studies that discovered smells are what trigger our most vivid and profound memories.

So what does this mean for us as we are working to build memories with our children? I don’t believe Christmas needs to be FULL of go-go-go or do-do-do BUT a few strategic choices can go a long way to solidifying some amazing memories our children will take with them for years to come.

In the spirit of doing less with MORE intention – here are some of the ways I am incorporating smells and spaces intentionally, in hopes that my children will always be able to look back fondly on our Christmas celebrations.


  • Choose ONE candle from your favorite candle store -or- essential oil blend and use it consistently, year after year.
  • Choose a favorite egg nog, apple cider or chocolate milk recipe.
  • Make Cinnamon ornaments to hang on the tree or use as gift tags. (here’s my favorite recipe)
  • Bake the same cookie recipe year after year.
  • Find a place in nature, a hiking trail, park, mountain or ocean/lake and breathe in and breathe deep. Different locations take on a different smell each season and connecting to the fragrance of nature is special and hopefully your children can visit this same location and smell the same smells year after year.
  • Choose a special perfume or essential oil blend that you wear. As mothers, we are our children’s safe space and cuddle spot, and I love the idea of giving them a smell to connect with.


  • Creating vignettes is my favorite way to establish consistent “spaces” in my home during the holidays. A vignette is a grouping of items that tell a story. Things like nativities, candles, picture frames, etc.
  • The tree is a big “space” in the home on Christmas – I like creating traditions in this space with special ornaments.
  • Cuddle spots/reading spots are fun to establish in the home – I have this one corner of the couch I always sit in to drink coffee and when the kids want to talk about their day, or we are going to read a book we all move to that spot – it just creates this feeling and consistency with the kids to help them feel safe and secure.

Being mindful to be consistent with smells and spaces can go a LONG way to creating those memories we long to have with our children. I know for me, I always want to do something new and novel and exciting, but I often have to remind myself that children thrive on consistency and routines and tradition – especially during the holiday season.

I would love to hear what smells and spaces you think of when you remember your childhood Christmases!

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