Christmas Smells Around the World

As Americans, we sometimes overlook the holiday traditions of other nations, even the ones we share. Christmas, for example, is celebrated by nearly 2 billion people around the world and, yet, everyone has different traditions. What different decor is used? What foods are different? What different smells trigger signs of the Christmas season? 

Many people equate Christmas with the smell of pine, but someone from a tropical country doesn't necessarily have access to a Fraser Fir.  So, what does Christmas smell like in other countries?

Leave your comments below - where are you from and what does your Christmas smell like?

It seems to be quite a simple question, at least for Estonians. Almost everyone would reply at once: sauerkraut, roast pork, and blood sausage. And maybe not so much the taste, but rather the smell of gingerbread and clementines. Then I started to think whether the taste scale is still wider than that. That’s why I decided to carry out a kind of sociological inquiry and asked my friends, colleagues and acquaintances: What does Christmas taste and smell like to you?

To me Christmas smells probably most like a blown-out candle, or rather a mixture of smells of blown-out candles, fir tree and clementine peels. It reminds me of this peculiar, a bit sad, and bittersweet feeling from childhood, when candles were blown out, smoke was curling into the air and there was Christmas night outside the windows.

People who shared their thoughts with me brought up several tastes and smells.
On this basis Christmas seem to taste like: sauerkraut, roast pork, blood sausage, lingonberry jam, hazelnuts (with the shells on), (red) apples, pickled pumpkin, (pickled) fish, roast duck with apples, stuffed eggs, cranberry juice, clementines, crispy ham, potato salad, thick fruit soup with whipped cream, meat pie with raisins, dried fruit loaf cake, pickled cucumbers.

For most people Christmas smells like: fir tree, candles, cinnamon (rolls), clove, cardamom, snow, mulled wine, Irish coffee, allspice, vanilla, garlic, ginger, orange, ground coffee beans, honey, cold fresh air, new books (received as a gift), a mixture of (food) smells when returning home from church, and the cemetery on Christmas Eve.

Perhaps just these rather homey tastes and smells represent the true nature of Christmas, instead of the fake shine of commercial holidays.

And in order that all this would not be just a sequent theory I tried to put a little part of those tastes and smells into practice. Here they are: christmas spices, pickled fish, sauerkraut, clementines, cranberries and gingerbread.

So can you smell some Christmas already?

Posted on December 19, 2012 by Sille Vadi

Sille Vadi is a valued food blogger and an award-winning cake master who works at the Institute of Cultural Research and Fine Arts at the University of Tartu. If you speak some Estonian, check out her popular food blog


Warehouse Clearance Sale