Outside, the sun is shining, it’s just over 50 degrees, and the trees haven’t even come close to losing all of their leaves. Inside, Brenda Lee Christmas is blaring on vinyl, my Christmas tree is twinkling, and the entire room smells like fresh-baked sugar cookies. That, my friends, is the magic of ambiance, all created by some expertly crafted holiday candles.
When the weather and my mood just don’t match, the only thing to do is stay inside. A cozy night in isn’t complete without the perfect candle, so we did the hard work of sniffing dozens of holiday candles and rounded up the best ones. Whether you want your room to smell like a fresh-cut Christmas tree, the box of cigars your dad brings out every Christmas, potato latkes for breakfast, or a hodge-podge of holiday smells, we have you covered.
$20 and Under
scent description: clove, orange, cinnamon, spice, wood
This smells exactly like how my house smells while we're decorating for Christmas. Not that it smells like dusty old ornaments from the attic—it smells like baking orange for garland in the oven, cinnamon sticks, and the fire burning in the background.
scent description: spice, bergamot
This scent is kind of a one-trick pony but in the absolute best way. Sometimes you don't need a heavy blend of unique smells for a good candle. This smells just like bergamot with a touch of spice—and it's all I need. My apartment becomes a home when this is burning.
scent description: lavender, warm vanilla, pink jasmine, sandalwood
Cozy nights at home are what the holiday season is all about, regardless of what you celebrate. This is a seasonless candle that you can burn all year round, but it'll make the perfect pairing to a night reading in bed.
scent description: champagne, sparkling berries, sweet orange
Nothing says New Year's like a glass of champagne—or Bath and Body Works' famed Champagne Toast candle. For those who don't want the classic holiday scents but like to party (relatable), this delivers.
scent description: cinnamon sugar, warm roasted pecans, brown sugar
If you want your kitchen to smell like baked goods (who doesn't?), I'm begging you to buy this candle. It's not so sweet that it'll induce a headache, but it's just sweet enough that you'll be placing an InstaCart order for a Pinterest dessert in no time.
scent description: rich red apple, sweet cinnamon, cedarwood
It's not the holiday season until I've started burning a 'Tis the Season candle. A quintessential blend of sweet cinnamon and apple with firewood, it's how I picture the Griswold house smells around Christmas.
scent description: fresh sage, juniper berry, aromatic eucalyptus, fresh woods
This smells like pulling on an old cashmere sweater from the back of your mom's closet. This delightfully layered candle is a twist on your traditional winter berry, thanks to notes of eucalyptus and woods.
scent description: apple cider, cinnamon
fresh cut Christmas tree, cookies, orange peels, cloves
Somehow, this candle combines every single scent of the holidays into one dreamy candle without smelling overpowering. Each note comes through beautifully, and the throw is magnificent.
scent description: applewood, clove leaf, cedar
For those who want a holiday scent but get headaches from all the other potent options on this list, you'll find a friend in this candle. It has a few classic holiday touches, like clove and cedar, but without all the sweet and pine that make it too much.
scent description: balsam fir, musk, winter spice
It's your classic pine tree scent, only richer. I imagine this is what a Christmas tree farm nestled in a fancy Connecticut boarding school would smell like, thanks to the addition of musk in your classic balsam scent.
scent description: baked apple, butter, potato, pomegranate, pound cake, vanilla, sugar, musk
This isn't your traditional holiday sweet smell, thanks to notes of musk and potato that will make you feel like you're cooking potato latkes in the kitchen with your whole family.
scent description: fig leaves, coriander seed, black pepper, pepperwood, fir balsam, cedarwood, cardamom, baies rose, lavender, nutmeg, patchouli
Boy Smells layers scents like no other candle company out there. I mean, look at that long list of notes. But they nail it just about every time, regardless of how unexpected the pairings might be. This sweet fragrance teeters the line of gourmand (thanks to the nutmeg), but spicy black pepper and cedarwood bring it back. It won't smell like what you think it does, but trust me: It's good.
scent description: bergamot, cinnamon, clary sage, lily of the valley, rose, lavender, patchouli, amber, musk
Harlem Candle Company found a way to make their candles smell expensive as all hell without actually being expensive as all hell. This one is an amazing blend of bergamot, amber, cinnamon, and sage, with notes of fresh lily of the valley, rose, and lavender. It's so unique and smells special, perfect for the holidays.
$50 and Up
scent description: clove oil, chestnut accord, vanilla accord
Because this began as a perfume, it has the workings of a fireplace candle plus sweetness in the ending notes from the chestnut and vanilla that make it so unique. It's pricey but will last you until next holiday season, no doubt.
scent description: pomegranate, mandarin orange, pine, cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, amber
This is often regarded as the best holiday scent out there, and we can't help but agree. If a Christmas candle was cheugy, this would be the antidote. It's a sophisticated blend of sweetness, woods, and citrus that feels rich without the pretentiousness.
scent description: birch, juniper, cade
This smells like a fireplace the second you light the log—all the warmth without the burnt smell. Dare we say this is Diptyque's best candle? Often imitated but never duplicated, this scent is worth the high price tag and is so good, you could (and should) buy it now.