By Sen. John Thune
Every family has their own way of celebrating during the holiday season, which makes this time of year so special and unique. Some people travel, and some stay home. Some people take the Clark Griswold approach to decorating, while others stick to a Christmas tree bound with a single strand of lights. For me and my family, the most important part of the holiday season is the celebration of God’s great gift to mankind in the person of his son, Jesus. However you and your family celebrate, the traditions you honor, the memories you make, and the sights and sounds you observe will have a long-lasting impact on generations to come.
When I was younger, we used to spend Christmas Eve with my grandmother. Before our family would head to Okaton, South Dakota, for the annual Christmas Eve service, she would make her traditional Norwegian dish: lutefisk and lefsa. Today, while my family has swapped some of her specialties for those of our own – clam chowder is a Thune family favorite – the aroma of lutefisk and lefsa will forever take me back to my grandmother’s house and remind me of the Christmas season.
My wife Kimberley and I kept many of my grandmother’s special holiday traditions alive as we celebrated Christmas with our girls, watching them grow with each passing year. Seeing them light up with the joy of the season as they performed in church and school Christmas programs are memories I will forever cherish. Both Brittany and Larissa are now adults and are married themselves, starting new traditions along the way. We all still share Christmas Eve together just like we did with my grandmother when I was younger. And the Christmas season wouldn’t be complete unless our family was able to catch old classics like White Christmas or Miracle On 34th Street – newer classics like Elf tend to make into the rotation as well.
As you and your family gather around the Christmas tree this year, exchanging gifts, laughter, and memories, remember the brave men and women in uniform who will celebrate away from their loved ones this year. It is because of their service and sacrifice that we’re able to be with our friends and families. They pay a big price for our freedom, and it should not go unnoticed, especially at this time of year. So too should we recognize the generosity of South Dakotans who dedicate their time and resources to help the less fortunate among us. South Dakotans are caring people with big hearts, and through their work, they are able to make the holiday season brighter for other people.
Traditions help tie one generation to the next. So, as you and your family celebrate old traditions this holiday season or create news ones that you’ll enjoy for years to come, Kimberley and I want to wish you a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year. May this season be filled with happiness and excitement as you rejoice in the good news of the great joy that shall be for all the people.