Q: I'm planning some holiday gatherings this year in my small apartment. I love candles but am nervous about lighting a bunch of them because I don't want wax spilled or fires started. The electric candles look nice but don't seem to add much fragrance. What are some other ideas I can try?
A: The holiday season is one of my very favorite times of year, and I also love hosting people over for dinner or drinks. And, how your house smells truly helps set the stage for a festive, welcoming gathering … or a not-so-festive one! What do you want your home to smell like?
As you know, a scented candle adds instant atmosphere. Beyond whatever the candle's fragrance, simply lighting a match actually helps reduce bad odors. Considering fragrances is an easy way to improve how your home feels, because we often forget to consider all of our senses when we decorate. And, over time, we acclimate to the way our home smells, so we may not notice odors when others might.
For the holidays, or any time of year, effective scent alternatives to lighting candles include classic reed diffusers, where you place wood-like rods into a small bottle of scented essential oil, and electric diffusers with a small reservoir for water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Room sprays and some plug-in air fresheners may be overpowering but could be an option as well.
Another very simple option would be to simply buy fresh candles in your favorite scent the day before your gathering. Set them around unlit for the party along with some battery-powered candles for atmosphere. Or, consider your menu and drink options. Simmer a batch of mulled wine, spiced cider, or Earl Grey tea with some orange zest on the stove or in a slow cooker. Or bake your favorite cookies or make banana or pumpkin bread.
Whatever you do, test out your new system long before your event. Depending on many variables, from the diffuser's size to the fragrance you prefer, and any drafts or air currents, you may need several diffusers throughout your home. And do a little research on aromatherapy and fragrances to help set the mood you want for different situations. For example, lavender is best used to help you relax, less optimal for an energetic gathering. Better scents for a party would include bergamot essential oil (or Earl Grey tea), and citrusy scents such as orange, grapefruit, and lemon verbena.
For more tips on decorating your home to appeal to all of your senses, see this article on my blog. Let me know how your parties go!