Recent Op-Eds

Home for Christmas

By Sen. John Thune

December 22, 2023

The holiday season is a time of homecoming for many Americans. This year, more than a third of South Dakotans will travel for the holidays, many of them going home to be with family – a feeling unlike most others at Christmastime. It can be a trip down memory lane as we celebrate cherished traditions, reconnect with loved ones, and reminisce about the good (and maybe the not so good) times of holidays past. No matter how, where, or with whom you spend the holiday season, it’s a time to enjoy life’s greatest gifts and to celebrate God’s gift to the world: His son, Jesus.

Whether growing up in Murdo, raising my own family, or now with our home filled with my daughters, sons in-law, and grandkids, Christmas has always meant family. Christmas in Murdo was always a wonderful time of year. During the Christmas season, our family would go caroling at our neighbors’ houses. On Christmas Eve, we would pile into the car for the trip to grandma’s. The smell of lutefisk and lefse still takes me back to those holiday dinners. If there was snow, we would run over to Jackson Avenue with our sleds, enjoying every last bit of the days off from school.

We have since substituted clam chowder for the traditional Norwegian dishes we had when I was a kid, but Christmas Eve still has that same warm feeling. We attend our Christmas Eve church service and come home for chowder and to open gifts under the tree. The excitement on our daughters’ faces, and now our five grandchildren’s infectious joy, is something I look forward to and cherish each year.

Like a lot of families, we also have a tradition of reading The Christmas Story on Christmas Eve. Revisiting the story of Jesus’ birth is a reminder of the reason for the season, and it’s one of my favorite parts of our Christmas celebration. As I read the verses, I think about that first Christmas when God became man. An angel delivered the good news to the shepherds in the field, and the Magi followed a distant star to the manger. The Christmas Story is an incredible reminder of God’s love for us, and the good news that His son came to earth for us.

Christmas is more than just a place on our calendar; there’s a spirit about the holiday season that sets it apart and keeps us in eager anticipation the rest of the year. The sounds, smells, stories, and the feeling of home all come together to make it a truly joyful season. From my family to yours, may you have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!