As Congress enters the homestretch here in 2017, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to head back to South Dakota in the coming weeks to spend the holiday season with my friends and family. There are few things in life that are as important as spending time with those you love. There’s no better time than now, and there’s no better place than South Dakota.
A lot of things have changed over the years, to be sure. Most notably, my family has grown. Brittany and Larissa are both married and now have kids of their own. Many things have also remained the same. We still get together to share old stories and memories, as well as make some new ones along the way. Most importantly, though, we still celebrate God’s gift to mankind, Jesus, who embodies the true meaning of Christmas.
Thinking of years past, I can still smell the lutefisk and lefse that my grandmother would make every Christmas Eve when I was a kid. It’s funny how memories like that stick with you for a lifetime, but I’m glad they do. Like many traditions I had as a kid, my family’s holiday meals, for example, have evolved over the years, and we’ve replaced the traditional Norwegian lutefisk and lefse with clam chowder – a Thune family favorite.
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It wouldn’t be the holiday season without all of the festive decorations that adorn community buildings and neighborhood homes, large and small. South Dakota has so many talented holiday decorators that several were chosen this year for a special assignment at the White House in Washington, D.C. Jeremy J. from Emery and Candace S. from Watertown were both among a small group of volunteers who were selected to help decorate one of the most famous and well-recognized homes in the world. It’s quite an accomplishment, and I know their families and communities are proud.
Speaking of families, there isn’t a holiday season that goes by that I don’t think about the brave men and women around the world who are defending freedom on our behalf and the families who are missing them while they are away. While most people are concerned about getting the season’s most popular gifts, beating holiday traffic, or figuring out how many vacation days they need to use before the new year, our troops are putting it all on the line, sometimes thousands of miles away from the comfort of their friends and family.
There’s plenty in the world today to be down about, but there’s so much more for which we can be thankful. I’m glad, as always, to be living in the greatest country, surrounded by the greatest people in the world. My wish this holiday season is that you and your family have safe and happy travels, wherever you’re headed, and that your journey is filled with all of the joy and happiness that make this time of year so special.