The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

Why I’m Adding Holiday Smells to My Holiday Decorations

What smells do you associate with the holidays?

This morning, on my way home from the gym, I walked by a stand selling Christmas trees and holiday greenery (in New York City, these pop up on street corners every December). I loved getting the chance to smell that wonderful fragrance of Christmas tree.

It struck me: I’ve done a lot of holiday decorating, but we don’t have any holiday smells.

Because it’s so hard to deal with a real tree in a New York City apartment, and because we always spend a week at my parents’ house at Christmas–where my mother puts up the largest and most gorgeous display of holiday decorations you’ve ever seen–we don’t put up a live tree. We use a small grove of tabletop, goose-feather trees to show off our ornaments. I’ve been collecting one ornament a year since I was a baby, and my girls have, too, so we have quite a few.

But an artificial tree doesn’t have a smell.

For Happier at Home, I adopted a resolution that has become one of my very favorite resolutions:  Cultivate good smells. I’ve become enchanted with the power and pleasure of the sense of smell.

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My walk this morning inspired me to add olfactory decorations to enhance our visual decorations.

To create a holiday feeling, I want to add the smell of pine tree, paper-white narcissus, and wood smoke. I can’t buy the wood smoke, but I can buy a wreath and a bowl of paper-whites. Their fragrance would add a lot to the holiday spirit of our home.

However, I know myself. I say that I would love to do this, but as an under-buyer, it’s hard for me to buy such things–especially things that don’t last. Can I really get myself to do it? I’m really going to push myself this year. I’ll report back!

What smells do you associate with the holidays? Do you take steps to make sure that that smell is part of the holiday experience? Boy, I wish there were a nicer word for “smell.”

Also ...

  • Are you interested in launching a group for people doing happiness projects together? These groups have sprung up all over the world, and one of my favorite things on my book tour was to meet some of the groups. Intrigued? Email me, and I'll send you the "starter kit." Read more here.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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