We’ve been listening to songs and reading picture books about having chestnuts around holiday time, so I bought some, looked up a Martha Stewart recipe and we roasted them.

They were yucky.

It’s possible that Martha Stewart recipe wasn’t a good one, but also I think it’s possible that chestnuts are not going to be my favorite food. I’d been imagining something fatty and smooth and a little crunchy — something in the filbert or hazlenut or pecan range of tastes and textures. These were starchy and mushy and sweet like water chestnuts, but not in a way I liked.

I sat there thinking, “People will write songs about anything.” Then I remembered other holiday songs and realized that lots of them are about snow, and that I hate snow. I like it in pictures, but I don’t like being cold and wet. And then I realized that all these holiday children’s books with pictures of certain kinds of weather (snow) and certain groups of people (big gatherings of family and friends) and certain activities (sleigh rides and ice skating) and certain specific foods (chestnuts and plum pudding) were not things I necessarily needed to copy in order to give myself a warm holiday glow.

The thing to do to get that warm holiday glow was to do things I liked (and things that were available to me as options instead of pining away over things that weren’t).

When I first started reading Thanksgiving books to my little one and thinking about how the holidays were going to go, I felt depressed. Our weather is sunny. (Boring!) We weren’t going to have a big group of people this year. (Lonely!)

Then I started thinking about what my options were. We could go on a trip, or we could have an intimate holiday at home. I’ve never cooked Thanksgiving dinner by myself before, and I wanted to. If it was just going to be the three of us on Thanksgiving day, I could try all the recipes I wanted to try without worrying about having it ready at the same time or having the house ready for guests. I ended up excited about it, and we stayed home, and the food timed out anyway, and I felt a rush of pride and pleasure.

These yucky chestnuts a few days after Thanksgiving confirmed it for me. Warm holidays are not about checking things off picture book lists. They’re about doing things that feel good, and what feels good to me is not necessarily going to be what felt good to the people who wrote the holiday songs and picture books that I love.