Living in the desert as I do, you miss out on a lot of wonderful natural scents throughout the year: the first riots of flowers in the spring, wet, fresh cut grass in the summer, dried crunchy leaves in the fall and real wood fires in the winter. Our flowers are more subtly scented, there are few large lawns (I actually have grass in my yard - both front and back, will wonders never cease - but it never has that amazing fresh cut smell even right after it's cut), our leaves don't change color and die in the fall (and they are small leaves anyway), and almost every fireplace is a California fireplace. Unfamiliar? It's a gas fireplace, totally glassed off in front, that "lights" with a flick of a switch. Incredibly clean and convenient, but no wood smell.
Combine that with our very tall and very beautiful but very unnatural Christmas tree (I feel bad cutting down a big, beautiful tree only to be tossed a couple of weeks later) and you really have a dearth of important scents. I love scented candles for this reason. Do yourself a favor and stay away from the cheapies. I don't care what the lady on the Glade commercial says, they do not smell like the high quality, more expensive ones.
While I'm not necessarily advocating a $40 expenditure on a single candle, I think $10-$20 is fair if the candle is truly high quality and therefor long-lasting. Target, for example, has a great line of scented soy candles and scented oil diffusers called Lume Luxe that ranges between $13-$15. My personal fave is their Blackberry Creme. It doesn't have that cloyingly sweet fruity scent you would find in a grocery store version. It is deep yet subtle, perhaps with the slightest hint of musk? It also doesn't totally overpower your room; you smell it wen you're right next to it, and the effect it has on the rest of the room is just one of freshness. Before I started using these, our home would smell stale when we came home from a long trip, but now when we open the door it smells fresh. (By the way, although the website is sold out of most of the candle scents, my local store is still fully stocked so your may be, too.)
However, Blackberry Creme isn't the most festive of scents for the holidays. I have a difficult time with fake holiday scents (as opposed to real pine from a Christmas tree, real sugar cookies baking in the oven, real candy canes in my hot chocolate, real cinnamon on my French toast) so I generally hate holiday-scented candles. There are very few scents I despise more than fake cinnamon. Fake pine is nearly as bad - like your living room was doused in generic Pine-Sol.
But today, my dears, today I found it. The perfect holiday candle. It's burning right now - in front of my California fireplace - and I'm in love. I found it in Bath and Body Works, but they don't have it on their website. It's called "Winter Cabin" and is made by Slatkin & Co. It seriously smells like a winter evening in your uncle's cabin at Lake Tahoe. Very woodsy without the fake chemical smell. The scent of burning pine logs in your fireplace without the smokey scent. It's quite lovely. Like I said, they don't seem to have it on their website; in fact, the only place I could find it online was one listing on eBay, but my local Bath & Body Works had piles so yours should, too. $20 for a 14.5 ounce, three-wick candle with a burn time of 40-65 hours. $20, in my opinion, that is well-spent for the sensory experience of the holidays when your area is lacking in such.
PS - Here's the full line of Slatkin & Co candles offered on the Bath & Body Works website. The one called "Winter" is not the same, nor are any of the tree scents. Definitely swing into the store and check it out if you're at the mall finishing up your shopping this week!