“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...” is playing (the classic Nat King Cole version) in the background as we are driving over the GWB (George Washington Bridge) into New York City for our annual family “Christmas in the City” get-a-way tradition. As I look out over the Hudson River, that timeless Christmas carol reminds me of my grandmother and how she made this season, especially Christmas Eve, so memorable for me growing up. Although she peacefully passed away this past October (2016), the strength of the bond her and I had since I was born seems to manifest as a simple song takes me swiftly back to her table at Christmas Eve. It’s at that table, which she would let me set (under her guidance of course) the silverware and napkins, where our bond would grow each year and where the foundation for many of my family traditions would be born.
I didn't realize this then, but as I grew up and started my own family, I came to truly savor her life lessons. I learned so much more than just where the knife and fork would be perfectly placed. I learned that childhood memories are priceless and that certain holiday traditions, like eating chestnuts during dessert time on Christmas Eve, are more than just robotic holiday activities. It’s the memories of those actions that become traditions that bring me joy and excitement and keep me looking forward to the next time I can do it all over again.
The daydream of my grandmother fades as we cross 7th Ave, and I can already see the joy in my gooses’ faces when we arrive at our hotel. I can see that this trip is more than jumping on fluffy white hotel beds, Rockefeller Center, Saks & Ladurée. It is a piece of me that is being passed on to my children. They may not think (the way I think of my grandmother, Norma) of me when they see the chestnuts being sold on the NYC street corners, but they will remember the quality time we spent as a family laughing, hugging and posing for endless photos. I hope that my children will get that warm feeling (kinda’ like the feeling you get when you drink Ladurée’s hot chocolate or when I eat a warm chestnut from the oven) each year the moment December comes around. That feeling of anticipation of those activities they know are to come because we have continued traditions of the past and created new ones of our own.
The month of December seems to be a crazy one, but sowing into your children’s family memories are definitely #WORTHIT. Who knew all those years when my grandmother, Norma, served roasted chestnuts that they would become such a priceless memory for me. I may be missing my grandmother a little more this year, but what better way to remember her than to roast up a batch of chestnuts and reminisce about everyone's favorite holiday traditions…all while listening to that famous Christmas carol classic by Nat King Cole. Yes, it has been said many times and many ways, but really I do hope you have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday month.
NJAPP Pro Tip: My brain was recently blown when I found out that chestnuts were on the ‘“Nice List” rather than the “Naughty List”. I grew up knowing they were good for you, but I was under the assumption that they were fattening because of their starchy consistency. Who knew that they are anything but fattening. Chestnuts provide many health benefits and are extremely nutritious, containing four grams of fiber per serving with only a fraction of the fat found in other nuts. Chestnuts also have a higher starch content, which is what contributes to feeling fuller longer (NJAPP gives that fact an A++). These nuts have been linked to the promotion of weight loss, lowering one's cholesterol and many more positive reasons to start peeling one open ASAP.