This is part of my Christmas Memory Challenge, a goal I set for myself to recall 25 things I love about Christmas. You can also check out Shannon's memories here.
I've known the opening line to A Christmas Song since I was old enough to listen to Johnny Mathis - it's the song that starts with "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." - but I didn't know anyone who actually roasted chestnuts. Most people I know collect chestnuts in the fall simply because of the belief that they repel spiders. (Or if you're me and you're eight, you collect them so you can make a necklace which doubles as a weapon against your brothers when mom's not looking). Chestnuts actually roasting on a fire seemed like an old-timey thing, like sleigh rides, a goose for Christmas dinner, or a quiet evening spent as a family.
Then I moved to Germany and learned that while the open fire may be a thing of the past, roasting chestnuts is still very much the thing to do. I also learned that I adore the smell. Oh, the smell is divine. I didn't actually care about eating them, I just wanted to smell them!
In early November (or when the weather turns cold enough), heisse maroni (hot chestnut) stands pop up all over Germany and Switzerland (and I'm sure other countries too, those are just the two I'm most familiar with) and I'd buy a bag of them just so I could walk around smelling them all day. When people ask me what I miss most about Christmas in Europe, it's the smell of heisse maroni... and buying Glühwein at a street kiosk. But mostly the smell of heisse maroni.