Candles May Be a Christmas Cliché, But They Actually Make Great Gifts

Candles burning in living room.

Home and Spirit

No matter how close you are with the recipient, buying a gift for someone else comes with a list of unspoken rules: always get a gift receipt, ask for their clothing size instead of guessing, and never buy certain gifts. Take candles, for example. For years, they got a bad rap for being clichéd and impersonal. But, as far as I’m concerned, candles can actually be a fabulous present.

Before you write off candles, think about how practical they are—especially in 2020.

Since most people stayed at home for the bulk of the year, changes in scenery are few and far between. However, a really delicious scent has the power to transport a person somewhere else entirely. Sure, your special someone might be cooped up in their apartment, but the right blend of eucalyptus and sandalwood can have them mentally basking on a tropical beach. After all, we all deserve an escape from the wrath of 2020.

If your recipient wants to spend a cozy week inside—or change the mood after a particularly tough workday—what better way to do so than with a candle? Some studies will go as far as suggesting certain scents can improve your mood or keep stress at bay, turning candles into a gift that keeps on giving.

I know what you’re thinking: candles might be practical, but they’re still wildly unoriginal. Well, not so fast. As someone with an entire cabinet full of ‘em, I firmly believe candles can be very personal. In fact, choosing the right candle can be a subtle way to show off just how well you know that person.

One way to wow with a candle gift is by picking out a delicious scent. To start your search, think about your loved one’s hobbies. Do they spend their summer at their family’s beach house? Look for candles with tropical, beachy notes like coconut, lemon, or seabreeze. If they have a penchant for baking, they’ll likely love a candle with hints of vanilla and caramel. Or, you can think back to a vacation you went on together. I think back to my vacation to New Zealand and Australia whenever I smell Passport Seven’s Sydney Opera House candle, which has a soothing mix of peppermint, patchouli, cedar wood and eucalyptus.

But, what if a signature scent doesn’t come to mind? Don’t worry: some candle brands have niche collections that might be aligned with your recipients interests. For example, Cancelled Plans’ 90’s Baby candle will give your special someone a whiff of nostalgia. Shopping for a pop culture enthusiast? Bijou Candles has named its scents after Old Hollywood starlets, fictional witches, and iconic '80s artists. Or, if you want to make spending the holidays away from family a little more bearable, Homesick’s line of city candles is designed to deliver.

If you ask me, one of the biggest reasons candles have the reputation of a lame clichéd gift is because most shoppers resort to the same few brands. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Receiving five of the same lemon verbena candle won’t make anyone feel special. If you want to shake up their candle collection, pick up a scent from an emerging brand. From the Koop to Otherland to Sunday Club, there’s a handful of cool brands determined to make candles a sought-after gift again.

01 of 08

Passport Seven Sydney Opera House Candle

Sydney Opera House Candle.
Passport Seven Sydney Opera House Candle $22-34
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Just because your big vacation was cancelled doesn’t mean you have to let your wanderlust go unattended. Founder Dani Greene designs all her scents with top travel destinations in mind. 

02 of 08

Cancelled Plans 90’s Baby Candle

90s Baby Candle
Cancelled Plans 90s Baby Candle $32
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With notes of strawberry, fig, and vanilla—among others—Cancelled Plans’ scent is retro in all the right ways.

03 of 08

Bijou Candles Whitney Candle

Whitney Candle
Bijou Whitney Candle $27
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The greatest love of all? Bijou’s Whitney Houston-themed candle, which has a dainty mix of freesia and citrus.

04 of 08

Boy Smells x Kacey Musgraves Slow Burn Candle

Slow Burn candle.
Boy Smells Slow Burn Candle $34
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Speaking of music sensations, Kacey Musgraves fans will love Slow Burn, a musky candle she designed with Boy Smells. 

05 of 08

Homesick New York City Candle

NYC Candle.
Homesick New York City Candle $34
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There’s no place like home, but Homesick’s city-themed candles are the next best thing. With eclectic top notes like bergamot, lemon, and grapefruit, this blend smells just like the concrete jungle.

06 of 08

The Koop Holiday Silk Candle

Holiday Silk Candle
The Koop New York Holiday Silk Candle $25
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Looking for the perfect candle for your favorite foodie? The Koop founder Kristin Rose says this scent is like “walking into an elevated bakery.” Yes, please.

07 of 08

Otherland Daybed Candle

Daybed Candle
Otherland Daybed Candle $36
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Just because your recipient loves floral scents doesn’t mean you have to buy them a fancy arrangement. Between a refreshing rotation of scents and 55-hour burn time, this candle will outlive even the freshest bouquet. 

08 of 08

Sunday Club Woods Candle

Woods Candle
Sunday Club Woods Candle $38
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Want to bring the great outdoors inside? Sunday Club’s Woods candle will receive Mother Nature’s seal of approval, thanks to a crisp blend of juniper, pine, and eucalyptus.

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