We Burned 51 Festive Scents — These Are The 13 Best Holiday Candles to Kickstart the Season

We want to light Nest Fragrances Holiday and Voluspa Sparkling Cuvée all winter.

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Holiday Candles

Sephora / Anecdote Candles / Pexels

You could say that our team at InStyle has a thing for candles. With all of us describing our candle collections as “expansive” — most of us keep at least 10 in rotation at any given time — we’re definitely experts, especially when it comes to festive scents. While we all have our seasonal favorites, we decided to bring some new options into the mix this year, testing 51 different holiday candles to determine which holiday scents are actually worth buying. 

To get the full experience of each candle, we burned every one we received for at least two hours (with most being burned for up to five), then determined if we would recommend it or not based on how powerful the scent smelled, the scent itself, the packaging, and whether the special qualities actually classify it as a holiday candle. (We also compared notes about which brands tunneled.) We split our favorites into scent groups, giving you a low-cost, mid-range, and splurge pick for each category.

Brands like Nest, Anecdote, L’Or de Seraphine, and Jo Malone impressed us with all their holiday options (and we think they’re particularly giftable), but read on for the rest of our favorites.

Fresh Scents

Best Budget

Friday Collective Cozy Time Tumbler Candle

Cozy Time

What We Love: The aroma is equal parts fresh and inviting, making it a nice transitional scent to take you from Thanksgiving to New Year.

What We Don’t Love: The vessel isn’t very festive.

The holiday season evokes emotions that we wish we could jar up and preserve forever — like the feeling of sledding after a fresh snowfall, cuddling up by the fire, or watching your favorite Christmas movie. While none of these activities have a defining scent, the Cozy Time candle from Friday Collective somehow perfectly captures the essence of each.

Midnight orchid and patchouli brighten the deeper aroma of fresh balsam to create an inviting scent that InStyle commerce writer Caitlyn Martyn says is unlike anything she’s tried before but also incredibly familiar. “It's light, airy, and strong but not headache-inducing, and gives off holiday vibes without being over the top.” She adds that it’s a lovely transitional scent that she plans to use as a segue from Thanksgiving to Christmas. “The best part is that it’s really fragrant right after lighting and stays that way until blown out.” Though the vessel is a pretty two-toned green, we think a more festive design would make this candle even better. 

Price at time of publish: $16

Size: 8 ounces | Wicks: 1 | Key Notes: Midnight orchid, fresh balsam, and patchouli | Burn Time: 45 hours

Best Mid-Range

Voluspa Sparkling Cuvée Glass Jar Candle



What We Love: The scent is delicate yet manages to envelop the entire room. 

What We Don’t Love: It tunnels ever so slightly.

Light, fresh candles are often reserved for sunshine and warmer weather — but Voluspa proves that airy fragrances can be just as merry as more traditional holiday scents. Ideal for those who find woody or gourmand candles to be too overpowering, this effervescent fragrance instantly brightens your space with a lively blend of sparkling wine, bright pomelo, and juicy red currants. As the delicate aroma envelops the room, hints of sweet rose petals and nectarines emerge to create a celebratory atmosphere. “This is definitely a sophisticated winter fragrance,” says InStyle commerce editor Mary Honkus. “I imagine Jay Gatsby burning it at one of his fictional holiday parties.” Beyond the aroma, the embossed glass jar definitely fits in with Gatsby’s grandeur aesthetic, too. Just be sure to allow the thinnest top layer of wax to melt before snuffing it out, or it will begin to tunnel ever so slightly. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Size: 9 ounces | Wicks: 1 | Key Notes: Sparkling wine, pomelo, and rose petals | Burn Time: 60 hours

Best Splurge

Jo Malone London Limited Edition White Moss & Snowdrop Home

Limited Edition White Moss & Snowdrop Home

What We Love: The unique fragrance is unlike anything we’ve smelled before. 

What We Don’t Love: Though we love that the scent is strong, it can be too overpowering for small spaces.

Though a fresh dusting of snow technically doesn’t have a scent, this is exactly what we imagine it should smell like: crisp yet creamy and slightly sweet with a fresh, earthy tinge. According to Martyn, who says this was her favorite candle of the ones she tested, the neutral, atmospheric fragrance has a surprising allure that extends the candle’s life past the short season: “It’s more of a winter scent to me. I’d burn it before and after the holiday has come and gone.” So instead of immediately putting it back in your candle drawer once the festivities are over, you can (and should) continue to enjoy it through the colder months. If you have a bigger space, this is definitely a scent to splurge on, but be wary if you live in a small apartment, as it can be a bit overwhelming.

Price at time of publish: $78

Size: 7 ounces | Wicks: 1 | Key Notes: Snowdrop petals and forest fresh moss | Burn Time: 45 hours

Spicy Scents

Best Budget

Yankee Candle Holiday Sage

Yankee Candle

What We Love: It’s a no-frills, classic holiday scent.

What We Don’t Love: The container is big and bulky, which makes it difficult to store.

You can put on the holiday tunes, light the fire, and bake all the cookies, but sometimes it truly doesn’t feel like Christmas until you light a spicy, wintry candle. For InStyle’s senior commerce editor Shannon Bauer, this scent is what brings the festive feeling to light. Herbaceous sage intermingles with crisp evergreen trees, warm cinnamon, and earthy rosemary to create a fragrance that Bauer says is a total holiday crowd-pleaser. “I’ll consistently burn it because it isn’t overly sweet or tree-like — it’s just very pleasant.” The only unpleasant thing is the sheer size of the jar: Though we love that it can burn for an extended amount of time (up to 150 hours), finding an adequate storage space for this monster candle can be a tricky task, especially if you have limited space. 

Price at time of publish: $40

Size: 42 ounces | Wicks: 1 | Key Notes: Sage, rosemary, and evergreen | Burn Time: 150 hours

Best Mid-Range

NEST New York Holiday Candle

 Nest Holiday Candle


What We Love: It comes in five different sizes, including a giant four-wick version and a miniature ornament.

What We Don’t Love: The glass looked a bit charred after a longer burn.

A quintessential holiday scent, Nest Holiday fills your entire home with aromas of cinnamon, cloves, and orange once lit. Even the smaller 8-ounce candle envelops an entire room in its rich smell without overwhelming the senses — but luckily for those with larger spaces, Nest makes five sizes, including a mega 77.2-ounce option. Bauer calls this candle “the epitome of Christmas,” adding, “This is what you would burn if you're hosting a holiday party and you want everyone to comment on how good your home smells.” It burns evenly each time you light it (just make sure to trim your wick). But InStyle senior commerce editor Chloe Anello notes that her vessel looked a bit charred at the three-hour mark, which is within the recommended burn time, so you may not be able to get as long of a burn out of it per light. 

Our team also tried Nest’s other scents — Birchwood PineHearth, and Blue Cypress and Snow — with all receiving rave reviews. Nest makes the best matches, too; they’re long enough that you don’t burn your hands and are easy to strike alongside the box without breaking it. Bring this candle over to any host this year with a box of the brand’s signature matches, or as Bauer puts it, “Splurge on a nice candle, and no one will notice that your appetizers are cocktail weenies and cookies from premade dough.”

Price at time of publish: $46

Size: 8.1 ounces | Wicks: 1 | Key Notes: Pomegranate, pine, cinnamon, cloves, and mandarin orange | Burn Time: 50-60 hours

Best Splurge

Jenni Kayne Musk Glass Candle

Musk Glass Candle

What We Love: It has a long burn time for its size.

What We Don’t Love: It’s more subtle than some of the other candles on this list.

Anyone whose holiday decor hardly strays from a white, beige, and gold palette might appreciate the subtle, sophisticated glass vessel from Jenni Kayne, which is known for luxurious cashmere throws and elegant tablescapes all in neutral shades. Byrdie and Brides associate director Avery Stone says, “While I wouldn’t associate this candle with the holidays upon first seeing (and smelling) it, its scent feels equal parts cozy and sophisticated, thanks to notes of spicy cardamom, amber, sandalwood, and orchid.” The black vessel with a white label will “blend into any décor,” as Stone says. It’s not meant to be an overt holiday smell, but once lit, the spiciness transports you into the festive season — it doesn’t need to burn long to be able to smell throughout your entire home. We also tested Jenni Kayne’s Cedar scent (one of Oprah’s Favorite Things in 2019), which we thought was more subtle smelling than “Musk” with notes of rose, tobacco leaf, fir needle, and cedar, but the white vessel does feel more holiday-like, in case that’s important to you. 

Both scents come in nearly the same size as other candles on our list, but it has a longer burn time of up to 80 hours, as opposed to the standard 60 for higher-end candles.

Price at time of publish: $65

Size: 10 ounces | Wicks: 1 | Key Notes: Cardamom, amber, sandalwood, and orchid | Burn Time: 60-80 hours

Gourmand Scents

Best Budget

Bath & Body Works Sugar Plum Fairy 3-Wick Candle


What We Love: While the scent is sugary, it’s not headache-inducing sweet, so even sensitive noses will be able to enjoy this. 

What We Don’t Love: It burns very quickly.

Like the dance of the sugar plum fairy in The Nutcracker, this sugary scent from Bath & Body Works enlivens the senses, filling the room with elegant notes of candied plums, cranberries, and oranges. As it burns, the aroma intensifies to brighten your space and lift the mood. “This is the perfect wrapping-presents candle,” says Bauer. “You've got an eggnog latte on hand, Mariah Carey is blaring, and a thick stack of gifts are ready for pretty paper and ribbons. All that’s missing is this scent — all I want for Christmas is you, baby.” Though sweet, the fruity elements make it more palatable for those who tend to avoid gourmand fragrances (and you’ll never experience a scent-induced headache when burning this). 

We tested a variety of Bath & Body Works candles (including holiday favorites like Eucalyptus Snowfall and Winter Candy Apple), and they all prove to be top-tier picks for anyone who wants to experiment with multiple holiday scents on a budget. That said, Honkus mentions that they burn extremely quickly, so try to only burn them for two to three hours at a time. Once blown out, the fragrance will linger for hours. 

Price at time of publish: $26

Size: 14.5 ounces | Wicks: 3 | Key Notes: Sweet sugarplum, candied cranberries, and sugared orange | Burn Time: Up to 45 hours

Best Mid-Range - Tie

L'or de Seraphine Sugar Plum Fairy Candles

Sugar Plum Fairy

What We Love: The ceramic vessel is a work of art. 

What We Don’t Love: With only two notes, the scent itself is very simple — which isn’t a bad thing, but some people might find it to be a bit boring.

When selecting a holiday candle, the scent is just one important aspect to consider — it should also look special. But if you feel like sparkly jars tied with green and red ribbons are a tad too kitschy, L’or de Seraphine has the solution: Their whimsical painted vessels encapsulate the joyous feelings of the holidays without being too over the top. For this year’s holiday collection, they partnered with Slovakian artist Paulina Vårregn to create artwork inspired by The Nutcracker. And out of the brand’s three offerings, Sugar Plum Fairy stood out to us for its sweetly simple makeup. It features just two notes — plum and oud — yet beautifully sets the mood for any festive occasion. “When compared to Bath & Body Works Sugar Plum Fairy, this is the more refined older cousin,” says Honkus. “The subtly sweet aroma makes my apartment feel like a posh ski chalet, even if it’s in total disarray.” The best part is once you’ve burned through the candle, you can reuse the vessel in a variety of ways: It makes for an especially jovial planter or makeup brush holder. 

Price at time of publish: $36

Size: 6.4 ounces | Wicks: 1 | Key Notes: Plum and oud | Burn Time: 45 hours

Best Mid-Range - Tie

Anecdote Candles Snow Day


What We Love: It truly lives up to its name.

What We Don’t Love: All of the holiday candles have the same vessel, making them easy to mix up.

After burning this for an hour, Anello says her apartment smelled like a warm cup of hot chocolate. “It actually brought me back to being home from school on a snow day. I typically hate sweet scents, but this one is irresistible,” she says. With essential gourmand notes of brown sugar, maple, butterscotch, and vanilla, the candle undoubtedly smells sweet, but it won’t overpower the senses. Unlike L’or de Seraphine’s candle, which only has two notes — plum and oud — this one isn’t sugary or fruity; it has a more complex, rich smell, capturing different elements of the gourmand scent category than L’or de Seraphine’s.

We tested the rest of Anecdote’s holiday collection, too, and also recommend Spiked & Spiced and Midnight Moonlight. Bauer noticed a bit of tunneling on hers after four hours of burning, but Martyn and Anello say theirs burned evenly. All the holiday candles have the same vessel, though — a lovely, modern gold tumbler — which makes it easy to mix up if you buy more than one. 

Price at time of publish: $34

Size: 9 ounces | Wicks: 1 | Key Notes: Brown sugar, maple, butterscotch, pecan, vanilla, sandalwood, and caramel | Burn Time: 70 hours

Best Splurge

Byredo Symphonique Candle

Symphonique Candle

What We Love: The sophisticated glass doesn’t scream holiday, so it can be used year-round if it hasn’t been fully burned.

What We Don’t Love: For the size and price of this candle, we wish it had a longer burn time.

Of course, we know Byredo for its luxury candles — the black glass jar can be recognized everywhere, as can the sophisticated scents that are more complex than anything we’ve smelled before. Anello thinks this would be an excellent candle for anyone who wants a light touch of holiday without anything too overpowering. The orange and ginger notes pushed us to categorize this more as a gourmand scent than spicy or woody, which we also considered for it. It flows through a few different categories, in our opinion, making it a good choice for someone who doesn’t have a favorite. We only wish this had a longer burn time, considering some smaller or similarly priced candles hit close to 70 or 80 hours, whereas this is only 60.

Price at time of publish: $90

Size: 8.5 ounces | Wicks: 1 | Key Notes: Anise, bitter orange, ginger, clove, beeswax, cedarwood, bran | Burn Time: 60 hours

Woody Scents

Best Budget

Homeworx Holiday Snow Day Scented Candle

snow day

What We Love: It has four wicks, which makes it perfect for burning in larger spaces. 

What We Don’t Love: It takes a while for a full layer of wax to melt, so try not to burn it unless you plan on staying in for a longer period of time to prevent tunneling.

Woody candles are difficult to get right — they can easily become too intense and suffocating, especially when it comes to more affordable brands. Yet, Bauer says that Homeworx really hit the nail on the head with this pleasantly surprising mint and fir needle-forward candle. “It reminds me of playing outside in the snow and coming inside to warm up — hot chocolate in hand with a candy cane stir stick.” Stone tacks onto this feeling: “When I burned this, I felt transported to holiday parties, making cookies while snow falls in the background, and cozying up with a blanket listening to music.” 

More than anything, what makes a winning candle is the feeling it evokes, and Snow Day condenses every cheerful winter activity into an 18-ounce jar. Because it is so large, both Bauer and Stone recommend reserving it for larger spaces. “It really fills the air,” says Bauer. And while it does burn smoothly, this isn’t a candle you should light for shorter periods of time. Keeping it lit for three to four hours ensures it stays level and doesn’t tunnel. 

Price at time of publish: $18 (originally $30)

Size: 18 ounces | Wicks: 4 | Key Notes: Mint, bergamot, fir needle, musk | Burn Time: 30-55 hours

Best Mid-Range

Otherland Forest Veil

Forest Veil

What We Love: This candle comes in a decorative box, so it’s super giftable. 

What We Don’t Love: It’s only sold online, so if you’re on the fence you won’t be able to run to a store to test it out.

If you thrive in nature and feel at home in the forest, this candle brings the great outdoors into the comfort of your home in a merry way. “It really smells just like a pine forest,” says Bauer. And where woody scents walk a fine line between being welcoming or intrusive, this one is a happy medium. “It’s strong, but in a very natural way,” she adds. Rich notes of cedar are softened with light sandalwood and earthy vetiver to create a well-rounded woody scent that satisfies all noses. We recommend buying multiples, too, because it will arrive in a decorative box with a custom matchbox, adding to the candle's experience (and making it a welcome holiday gift, too).

We know that some people like to sniff test scents before committing to them, but you won’t be able to with this one because it’s only sold online. Rest assured that this is a woody scent you won’t experience buyer's regret with, though. 

Price at time of publish: $36

Size: 8 ounces | Wicks: 1 | Key Notes: Cedar, sandalwood, vetiver | Burn Time: 50 hours

Best Splurge

Maison Margiela REPLICA By The Fireplace Scented Candle

Maison Margiela 'REPLICA' By The Fireplace Scented Candle


What We Love: It definitely smells like burning wood, but in a subtle, refined way as not to overwhelm a smaller space.

What We Don’t Love: We wish it came in larger sizes.

Within the team, most disliked the woody scents because, as Martyn puts it, “I just don't like the idea of a burning smell in my room.” They recommend saving these types of candles for larger spaces or as a gift for hosts who have airy homes. However, Anello thinks this might be a universal exception because the scent resembles stepping outside in the winter and smelling the smokiness of a faraway fire in the air, rather than a bonfire directly in your home. “I grew up in a very wooded area and in a home with the fireplace always on in the winter, so I find the smell very homey and soothing,” says Anello. “But now that I live in a city, I understand where my colleagues are coming from. However, I think this one is subtle enough to convert any non-believer.” The vanilla and orange flower mix with the woodier chestnut and clove scents to create a more subtle fireplace smell. It creates a cozy atmosphere that feels explicitly like the holidays.

One note: It only comes in a small size, just under 6 ounces, so we don’t think it will be suitable for larger spaces.

Price at time of publish: $65

Size: 5.8 ounces | Wicks: 1 | Key Notes: Clove oil, chestnut accord, and vanilla accord | Burn Time: 40 hours

Other Products You Might Like

Homecourt Balsam Fireplace Limited Edition Candle

This candle rivaled Maison Margiela Replica for Anello — similar price range, the experience evoked, and quality — but this candle smells a bit more like a fire burning, which some of our team didn’t love, whereas we appreciated the subtle, more universally appealing profile of the other. With notes of fir balsam resin, eucalyptus leaf oil, juniper berry, salted amber, cardamom, and papyrus, it has a rich woody scent that lightly spreads throughout the room, and Anello thinks it's pleasant for those who love this type of candle. We loved the look of the ceramic vessel, too; the deep green looked sophisticated enough for anyone who doesn’t want an overtly holiday candle. You also get 60 hours of burn time from this 8-ounce candle, which is on the high end for the candles we liked.

Hotel Lobby Holiday Candle

We loved the details of this brand. Not only did it come in a beautifully packaged box with a bow wrapped neatly around it, but also the candle information came on a plastic key card instead of a piece of paper. The entire presentation felt well thought out, so this would make a particularly good gift. We appreciated how high-end these candles were, specifically the Holiday scent, which has notes of evergreen, fresh pine, balsam fir, and blue spruce. Because of the price, these little details make a huge difference in the value. Anello thinks it does invoke a holiday-at-a-hotel feel. Martyn felt like the Cabin scent was “a little too smokey” for her taste because she burned it in a smaller room. In general, we all agreed that these candles need an airier space because of their strength.

Serena & Lily Coastal Christmas

Christmas in warmer climates means something different to those in snowy New York (which is where our team is based). Serena & Lily captured a warm-weather holiday perfectly through this candle that has notes of northern pine, Douglas fir, blue spruce, cinnamon, and smoke. We loved the scent, but we were underwhelmed by the vessels. The white bone china felt too simple as it has no label or any unique elements — even compared to the more simple candles, like Jenni Kayne or Homecourt, it felt too basic. The other option is a vessel wrapped in actual bark, which has a bit more pizazz with its literal take on a woody scent.

Firefly Holiday Frosted White Glass Candle in Winter Pumpkin

For a bit of a different type of scent, we enjoyed the uniqueness of this pumpkin candle. “I am not a pumpkin-scented kinda gal (I know, I know),” said Bauer. “They usually are way too strong and fake pumpkin — I'd rather have the real thing in dessert form. But this one changed my mind; it was nice and light but still sweet.” She describes it more like “your very close-by neighbor was baking pumpkin pies, and the scent drifted in your window.” Bauer experienced tunneling on one side of her candle, but she still thinks this would be a good purchase for someone who prefers something more subtly fall-scented rather than an overt holiday.

Nomad Noé LOVER in Jerusalem

Byrdie senior commerce editor Jill Di Donato prefers a “fuller, darker holiday scent” as opposed to fresher options, like this candle from Nomad Noé. “The notes of green fig, petitgrain, sandalwood, and iris are woodsy with touches of musk — absolutely divine. The scent evokes a warm and winter feeling, without any treacly or saccharine notes,” she says. We didn’t think this candle screamed holiday quite as much as the others did, so if that’s more your speed, we recommend trying this candle. And as Di Donato notes, “I also appreciate that this candle is clean and nontoxic, so I can feel good about burning it around my family.”

What to Keep in Mind

Burn Time

Burn time is closely correlated with the size of your candle — so typically, the bigger the candle, the longer you’ll be able to burn and enjoy it. Of all the candles on our list, Yankee Candle Holiday Sage has the longest burn time (up to 150 hours), which makes sense because it is our largest pick at 42 ounces. But there are also some surprisingly smaller options that have impressive longevity (like Anecdote Candles Snow Day, which has a burn time of 70 hours despite being 9 ounces). Be sure to check the packaging for an accurate estimate before purchasing. 

Wick Amount

Wick count may not be a key factor you think of when candle shopping, but it’s actually an important one, especially when it comes to where you’ll be burning it. Candles with multiple wicks actually carry scent further, making them ideal for larger spaces (think: your great room or dining room during a holiday party). Bath & Body Works Sugar Plum Fairy and Homeworx Snow Day on our list have three and four wicks, respectively. If you live in a smaller apartment, it’s best to stick with one-wick candles to not overwhelm the space.

Scent Profile

The scent profile of your candle is perhaps the most important thing to think about, and it all comes down to personal preference. For this guide, we broke up the scent profiles down into the four most popular holiday categories: fresh, spicy, gourmand, and woody. Fresh holiday candles tend to be light, airy, and less traditional than classic festive scents, but they still manage to invoke a cheery feeling when lit. Spicy scents run the gamut of aromatics — think cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, and peppermint. Gourmand fragrances reach far beyond freshly baked cookies: They tend to be more complex and include notes of chocolate and caramel but can also be brighter with sugared citrus. Finally, the base notes of woody scents bring attention to wintry trees like balsam, fir, and pine.

Your Questions, Answered

What makes a candle holiday scented?

While there are countless candles labeled “holiday scented,” what truly makes a candle perfect for the holidays is the feeling it evokes when lit. When a whiff transports you to happy memories of making gingerbread houses, coming in after playing in the snow, or spending time with family, we consider that to be the ideal holiday scent — and that's deeply personal for every individual. 

Beyond the scent, aesthetically pleasing candles that are reserved for festive occasions can also be considered great holiday candles (which is why we included a few excellent options that feel less obtrusive). Also, they can be considered more non-denominational in an oversaturated market of Christmas-themed candles.

How far in advance should I burn a candle before having company over?

This all depends on how you want the scent to permeate your space. Typically, we’ll light our candle an hour before company arrives and blow it out after three. The scent will still linger while it’s not lit, and three hours ensures that the wax stays even. 

How do I get my candle to burn evenly?

The answer isn’t so simple — it depends on how large your candle is. A good rule of thumb is to burn the candle for an hour per inch of the vessel diameter for an even burn. This will ensure that it doesn’t tunnel, and you’ll get the most hours out of it.

Why Shop With Us

Chloe Anello, senior commerce editor, and Mary Honkus, commerce editor, both joined InStyle’s commerce department in 2022. Both burn candles daily, but for this story, they tapped the rest of their team to help test over 50 different holiday candles. InStyle and Byrdie commerce writer Caitlyn Martyn, InStyle and Byrdie senior commerce editor Shannon Bauer, Byrdie and Brides associate commerce director Avery Stone, and Byrdie senior commerce editor Jill Di Donato all tested seven to ten candles each, then reported back on their favorites. Altogether we compared notes of brands we loved, brands that tunneled, and brands we weren’t too sure about in order to pick our favorite scents.

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