What is roasted chestnut? Chestnuts are a species of nut enjoyed around the world. In East Asian culture, they are a staple of New Years celebrations, said to symbolize mastery and strength in Japanese culture. Chestnuts were actually cultivated before rice in Japanese culture, and their use in China goes back anywhere from 2000 to 6000 years ago. They are also a big part of South Korean celebrations, heavily involved in ancestral worship and even a part of many popular folk songs. The chestnut’s most recent use in Asia is in South Asia, where British colonists introduced the tradition of roasted chestnuts around the holidays to Nepal, Bhutan, and northern India.