Gingerbread baking in the oven, mulled wine stewing on the stove, fresh, grated nutmeg garnishing the eggnog. It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas. Is that how the song goes? No? Perhaps it should, because nothing says the holidays quite like the aroma of spice.

On The Nose

They say smell is the most powerful trigger of nostalgia. One whiff of the body spray you used in middle school and you’re right back to that first awkward kiss, braces and all. Proust famously coined this phenomenon an “involuntary moment” – when a memory is suddenly awakened by a scent, taste or sound. For some, the holidays are all about the smell of cloves. For others, it’s cinnamon and nutmeg. Of course, the aroma you might associate with the holidays has a lot to do with the country, culture or traditions you grew up in.

Runaway Hit

Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me – I’m the Gingerbread man. You’ll likely recognize this iconic refrain from the famous story, The Gingerbread Man. According to the Smithsonian museum, this piece of folklore is actually part of a larger genre about “goodies gone wild.” The Fleeing Pancake stories, as they are known, all contain the same ingredients: a cheeky little baked good popping out of an oven, a race to escape and an ill-fated end.

spice is nice



  • There are two kinds of cinnamon: Cassia, the more common type and Ceylon, known as “true” cinnamon
  • IKEA holds the current Guinness Book of World Record record for the largest gingerbread man ever made. It weighed a whopping 6,501 kg (1,436 lbs 3 oz)
  • The warm scent of cinnamon is known to boost memory and improve performance
  • Star-anise pairs well with cinnamon, nutmeg and milk chocolate
star anise


How did this bouquet of spices become synonymous with the holidays?

The link between these spices and the holiday season dates all the way back to medieval Europe. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves were expensive and symbolized wealth, luxury and indulgence. For the aristocracy of the time, celebrations around winter solstice and the religious holiday Christmas were a time to pull out all the stops. And what better way than with a grand feast, generously seasoned with some of the most luxurious spices in the world?

variety is the spice of life

TOP 10

For many, these are the top 10 spices we associate with the holidays.

CINNAMON: derived from the bark of the tree; available in quills or powder

NUTMEG: whole seed of the Myristica tree; available ground or whole

CLOVES: aromatic dried flower bud; available ground or whole

GINGER: Southeast Asian flowering plant; available fresh, dried, pickled, candied or ground

CARDAMOM: derived from seeds native to India and Indonesia; available ground or whole

CORIANDER: herb from Apiaceae family; available fresh or ground

ALLSPICE: dried, unripened berry; available ground or whole

VANILLA: derived from the pods of vanilla orchid plant; available as extract, paste or whole bean

STAR ANISE: star-shaped seed pod with a licorice taste; available ground or whole


Learn how to make Gingerbread Spiced Nuts


You might want to get your hands on these spiced goodies before it’s too late.

Holiday Macarons and Caramel Apple Cider

Made with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves available from Ollia Macarons & Tea.

810C 16th Ave. S.W. |

Holiday Spiced Sugar

Is a blend of white sugar, pure ground vanilla beans and holiday spices from The Silk Road Spice Merchant.

1419 9th Ave. S.E. |

Gingerbread Scone

Made with finely chopped candied ginger, white chocolate and gingerbread spices from Cobs Bread (all locations).

236 Stewart Green S.W. |

Mincemeat Tarts

Is a fourth-generation family recipe made with raisins, brandy, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove or the savoury French-Canadian tourtière made with holiday spices from Pie Junkie.

All locations |

Mulling Spices

Are made with an aromatic blend of cinnamon sticks, clove, anise, ginger and cardamom from The Apothecary in Inglewood.

921 9th Ave. S.E. |