Many years ago it was fashionable to have little sachets of herbs tucked into linen draws to help winter clothing stay fresh smelling. These pouches not only were aromatic, but they assisted in keeping out unwanted pests, such as moths, from storage areas. You may even remember helping to tie dried herbs into mesh or muslin fabric to make little fragrant gifts.

Dried herbs and flowers, often called potpourri, are especially useful in the winter months, because in many areas, the house is shut tight against the cold. The air can become stale as it does not circulate in the same way as it does in the warmer weather with the windows opened to allow fresh air inside the home. Sachets are not the only way to use potpourri for Christmas. Scented herbs and flowers can be displayed in glass bowls, ginger jars, and other ornamental containers, adding decoration as well as aroma to the rooms.

Fragrances for winter potpourri and pomanders are usually warm and pungent. Cedar has excellent properties for protecting against insects. Lavender is warm and also helpful at deterring pests. Both of these help to keep linens and woolens safe from moths and other harmful infestations. Some stories indicate that the Virgin Mary washed Jesus' swaddling clothes in water that contained lavender.

Rosemary is another popular herb found in the shops at this time of year. Some garden centers even have small trees of rosemary growing in pots to be used as miniature and fragrant trees. The leaves can be dried and used with great success in an aromatic blend. Rosemary can also be used in cooking, and makes an interesting addition to stuffing, dressings, and sauces. According to legend, rosemary is said to have born flowers on the night that Jesus was born.

Bayberry-sometimes known as wax myrtle-is another popular Christmas scent. It is often found in seasonal potpourris, as well as candle fragrances.  Frankincense and myrrh are also popular at this time of year, mainly because these are the herbs that the wise men brought to the baby Jesus in the Christmas story. 

Cinnamon is another popular scent for candles and potpourri at Christmas. Not only does it conjure up warm thoughts of baking and cooking, but it is a very old and valued spice. In Biblical times, cinnamon was used as anointing oil. Today, it is used more as a flavor or a scent than a ritual item. Sticks of earthy brown cinnamon bark can be tied with bright ribbons and attached to the tree, or set in places where the aromatic scent can permeate around the house.

Ginger is another spice that is popular during the holiday season. Ginger is used in cooking, but it was also placed in the ginger jars that were used as decorative items in the home. The jars didn't only contain ginger, though; they held a blend of herbs and spices as well as essential oils to help keep the air in the home smelling fresh. Some of these herbs were thought to help protect the home against illness, or even curses, too. Today we think of gingerbread houses and gingerbread men at Christmas, but ginger is still a favorite aroma to add to candles and other seasonal items.

Sage is used more in cooking than in potpourri, but it is still a very popular herb all the same. There are many kinds of sage, but it is usually Salvia officinalis that is used in cooking and scented blends. Traditionally, sage is purifying, and it is said that the baby Jesus was hidden in a sage bush to protect him from being found by King Herod. The leaves of dried sage are gray-green in color, and make a nice contrast to the other colors in the blend.

It is possible to purchase premade dried blends, but these may contain synthetic fragrances. Some people may have allergies to different oils or plants, too, so care must be taken when choosing potpourri for Christmas if it is going to be given as a gift. With a little thought, though, a herbal gift can be truly unique, and last much longer than just the holiday season.