Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I Still Believe

This Christmas I am not able to make it back to my hometown, Winona to celebrate the season with my family, but I am carrying the Riska spirit with me today, as I do everyday, and sharing some of my family's traditions with my husband's family.

Later this afternoon I'll be sharing another of my grandmother's recipes with my mother-in-law and baking Chocolate Cherry Nut Cake and my husband will be putting his own spin on her recipe for Tater Tot Hotdish (which is basically a casserole, for those of you who don't speak Minnesotan)

My grandparents always made Christmas special growing up..Being over at their house after school, I got to help them decorate, putting up the Nativity and the Christmas Tree and I always loved going to the mall with my grandfather to sell his beautiful paintings at their holiday market. Sometimes I'd even get to help grandma bake or at least get to watch and get the special treat of licking the beater..

For many years on Christmas Eve I would help my mom decorate my great aunt's tree, which I still have, flocking and all, and then I would participate in the Children's Christmas Mass, either playing a part in the nativity or singing with my favorite teacher, Miss Cassidy and then we'd gather with cousins and aunts and uncles at my grandmother's house for snacks and sweet treats, laughter and fun. 

My grandfather, who was a hard working man, also enjoyed his hobbies, which included painting and fishing, but he was also an avid bowler. For many years on Christmas Eve there was always a bowling tournament, while grandpa was gone, Santa Claus would come to grandma's house and give us our presents. Grandpa always came back just after Santa had left the house and tell us how he got to feed the reindeer. We would then exchange our own gifts to each other and then mom and I would leave and go looking at Christmas lights. 

For many years on Christmas Day we would continue the holiday fun and all gather at my uncle's house for food, movies, laughter, and games.

When his family moved away, my mom and I started our own tradition of going to the movies, and were included in the gatherings of extended family, where the joy of the Season was as sparkly as the twinkle I saw in Santa's eye as a child. 

I'm 37 now, my grandparents and my mother are celebrating Christmas in the stars and I am enjoying new traditions with my husband, giving back to those in need, helping with our Church festivities, and spending time with his family who have opened their hearts to me.

Those memories: the magic of the carols and the first Winter's glistening snow, the twinkling lights, grandma's sugar cookies,the laughter and love of family, the celebration of Jesus' birth, and those Christmas Eve bowling tournaments that cement my belief in Santa Claus and the magic of Christmas.

My Christmas Wish to Santa is that I'll be home to Minnesota for Christmas next year, but my heart this season is filled with new traditions and joyous memories that I shall treasure always.

To all of my family, and friends, whatever your belief may be, my wish for you is that you hearts be filled with the spirit of the season on this day and always.