Hate the Smell of Christmas Trees? Turns Out You're Not Alone!

I'm sorry, but the scent of pine is just gross

illustration of man holding his nose because he hates the smell of christmas trees

The Spruce / Alex Dos Diaz

The cozy feeling that the holidays bring is one I look forward to every year. But what I dislike even more than the smell of pumpkin spice (I know, stick with me) is the smell of Christmas trees—pines to be exact.

Before I explain, let me be clear: I LOVE CHRISTMAS. And I don't run out of a room when I detect a hint of fresh pine in the air. Over the years, I've learned to tolerate it because I can’t just go around asking people to throw out their Christmas tree on my behalf.

But one thing's for sure...you won’t smell a touch of it in my home.

It's been this way as long as I can remember. When I was younger, my friends would gasp at me when I expressed my disdain for the scent, often purchasing air freshener with extra pungent pine smells just to get me riled up. And that’s exactly what it smells like to me—a cheap air freshener at a car wash or a spray air freshener, covering up the mustiness that really exists. 

You must think I’m candied nuts! But as an adult, I love the fact that I don’t have to love it just because everyone else does (my husband has no choice in the matter).

And it seems I’m not the only one who has extreme dislike of certain scents. It's a real thing, and there’s even some science to prove it. 

The Science Behind Smells

Olfactory Memory Is Powerful

Smells are often associated with memories, both good and bad, due to the brain’s anatomy. According to a Harvard Gazette Review article, smell is the only fully developed sense a fetus has in the womb, and it’s the one that is the most developed in a child through the age of around 10 when sight takes over. And because “smell and emotion are stored as one memory,” childhood tends to be the period in which you create “the basis for smells you will like and hate for the rest of your life.”

Clearly, I didn’t like the smell of pine from the get-go! 

I distinctly remember going Christmas shopping with my grandmother, and every store having a stronger scent of pine than the next, often giving me a headache by the end of it all. 

When I think about my childhood during the holidays, the smells that I remember are homemade cookies, homemade manicotti and gravy, and cinnamon. Perhaps my association with the holidays is encompassed in all of those smells, giving me the ability to turn my nose up at the scent of pine. Besides, the smell of it, well, it just stinks.

A Glitch With an Olfactory Receptor

Another reason you may not like the smell of something is you could be missing the receptor that allows you to enjoy a scent. Monell Chemical Sense Center researchers found that just a single olfactory receptor being altered was enough to change a person's odor perception. "Because most odors activate several receptors, many scientists thought that losing one receptor wouldn't make a difference in how we perceive that odor," the researches said. Missing a single odor receptor or having multiple copies of a gene can affect your sense of smell, for good or bad. 

Working Around the Pine Scent

So what do you do if you don’t like the smell of pine? Well, you pick something else. My Christmas decor has nothing to do with the scent and all to do with the look and feel the entire collection brings to my family and me. 

Buy a Fake Tree

First things first, get a fake tree. I used to love the adventure of chopping down a tree with my family and bringing it home, all proud as if we chose one even more perfect than the year before. But besides the mess, the upkeep, and its disposal, I just really never loved the smell.

Stephanie Trovato's artificial Christmas tree

Stephanie Trovato

In came my fake tree, pre-lit for added convenience, the perfect width and height, and never sheds a single needle. That is the best Christmas present for me.

Create Your Own Essential Oils Mix

You can also make your own Christmas scent. Using essential oils, creating a smell conducive to your taste has never been easier. I love the smell of gingerbread cookies, and this recipe delivers that aroma through my house in the most perfect way. If you have more than one diffuser, switch up the scents around your home and set each room’s mood. 

Use Scented Candles

When in doubt, Yankee Candle it out. Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh-baked sugar cookies? (Technically, this could be a thing, too.) Yankee Candle offers a multitude of holiday scents in various sizes, setting the level for your holiday cheer. 

Make Your Own Simmer Pot

Keep it au-natruale and make a simmer pot filled with your favorite scents. Simply add a quartered apple, a whole orange peel, roughly 15 cloves, and two cinnamon sticks to a pot. Add water and simmer on low. The aroma that develops will spread throughout your home, delivering satisfying smiles in the process. 

Invest in a Wax Warmer

If candles and oil diffusers combined to make the perfect child, it would be a candle warmer. It gives you a safer option for burning candles and/or wax because there is no open flame. Many candle warmers come with an auto-off function, which reduces safety risks. In addition to these safety benefits, candle warmers do not produce any soot and the scented wax more efficiently. Choose the scent of your choice, and put your holiday spirit into full gear.

Stephanie Trovato with daughter in front of Christmas tree

Stephanie Trovato

The holidays continue to bring me joy, perhaps for different reasons than in my childhood. Decorating my home, baking cookies, and watching my daughter get into the holiday spirit is what Christmas time means to me. The smell of pine will never have a place in my home, and that’s okay because there are plenty of other yummy holiday smells to enjoy.