multicultural holiday decor candle

Holiday decor beyond snowflakes and garlands (Part II) : Scents & Sensibility

multicultural holiday decor wreath
In true Seattleite fashion, I have this recurring mental debate around the holiday season about whether artificial or fresh-cut Christmas trees are the way to go.  Artificial trees can be re-used year after year but they’re made of environmentally unfriendly substances like PVC plastics.  On the other hand, the fresh-cut trees use up precious resources like water, labor, and land for a single season use.  Even after many years of pondering, I’m still not clear on which choice is best suited for our family.   But there is one thing that does tip the scale in favor of the fresh-cut trees for me every single year: the fresh scent of a pine tree.  The citrusy clean smell of a pine tree is what I associate with Christmas morning, with memories of kids opening up presents giddy with excitement.  

Decorate with scents

Scents are such powerful agents of memories.  For some, the smell of masa dough steaming on the stove will remind you of Christmas tamale dinners.  For others who celebrate St. Lucia day, the sweet subtle scents of Lussekatts (saffron buns) baking in the oven will conjure up memories of lingonberry wreaths and candles.  For many who celebrate diwali, the earthy smell of diyas will transport them to the time with family. 

This is all to say that when decorating for the holidays, scents are also an essential design element that you can mindfully and effectively use to elevate your holiday home decor.  After you’ve had a chance to pick out the visual elements, take the time to curate the scents that will be introduced into your home.  There are many many ways to bring in scents into your home ranging from room sprays, candles, potpourri, essential oil diffusers to good old fashioned cookies in the oven, but I’ll just mention two of my favorite for this article. 

multicultural holiday decor candle

Candles that smells like home

Seek out some scents beyond the typical holiday fragrances, and welcome this as an opportunity to tap into your cultural heritage.  There are some candle and fragrance brands that specialize in capturing the essence of locales like Homesick Candles.  Candles are my favorite way to bring in light, warmth and fragrance into your home.  Remember how I mentioned my personal fondness for fresh pine scent?  In addition to reminding me of Christmas mornings, pine scent also takes me back to my parents’ house in Korea, nestled in whimsically crooked old pine trees.  Perhaps for you, it’s the smell of ripe mangos or madurai jasmine that evokes someplace special.  

multicultural holiday decor

Drink your scents

Another unexpected but effective way to imbue special scents in your home is by the way of engaging another one of your senses.  Ritual of drinking tea has a well known significance in many cultures.  Have you ever breathed in the spicy and sweet aroma of Chai tea?  With the warmth that comes from spices like cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and others, you taste the tea before it even touches your lips.  Another one of aromatic tea to treat your olfactory senses?  Rose tea smells and tastes exactly like how you imagine roses to smell and taste.  If you prefer lighter fruitier scents, try Osmanthus Black Tea which smells like peaches and apricots infused with notes of honey and caramel. 

In case you’re not yet convinced about the idea of ‘decorating’ with tea scents, here’s another reason.  From the subdued elegance of a cast iron Japanese teapot to timeless beauty of delicate Fine Bone China, tea sets can add another layer of visual elegance to any holiday decor.  

Whatever your tea preference, next time you want to decorate your home for the holidays, gather your friends and family for a pot of fragrant hot tea.  

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