Megan Fryda Christmas: 10-point pitch, sneakers, ‘Silent Night’ in candle-lit church

We asked Megan Fryda, director of academic resources and institutional research, to share some of her favorite things about the holiday season. From Christmas tree decorations and childhood memories to food, music and other family traditions, here are some of the things she treasures most about the season:

What is your favorite holiday song?
“O Holy Night” will always be my favorite. I just love hearing that one, especially when people sing those high notes. I also have a special place for “Silent Night.” We go to church on Christmas Eve, and the service always ends with everybody lighting candles and singing it. That definitely brings a tear to my eye. I always take a camera along and try to get a few pictures of my kids each year because I want to save those moments forever.

What should Santa bring you this year?
Probably shoes. That’s my guilty pleasure. I love tennis shoes, running shoes, casual shoes and sneakers of any kind. You can’t walk through my bedroom without tripping over shoes. I run in Asics, and my favorite casual shoes are Nike, so anything like that would be a great gift.

What should Santa bring UNK?
A COVID-free campus is at the top of the list this year. People have dealt with so many things and overcome so much, and it’s been difficult. We’ve all missed out on a ton and haven’t had many normal experiences. That makes me sad. I just want us to have more normalcy on campus. If Santa could bring that, it would be a great second semester.

Who is the hardest person in your family to buy for?
Nobody really because I get a lot of gifts for everybody and just spend way too much money. The better question is probably who is the easiest, and that is my kids. They’re still young enough that there are a bunch of options, and I have fun buying for them. My youngest, Archer, is 6 and probably the easiest. He loves everything in Target and Wal-Mart. He’s basically our year-round Christmas elf. He wears Christmas Crocs all year long and even had The Grinch cake for his birthday, which is in the summer. He’s missing two front teeth this year, so he’s been singing that song, which is kind of cute.

What is your favorite holiday movie?
The “25 Days of Christmas” on Freeform is on every single night, so that’s my start. My very favorite is “Christmas with the Kranks,” and then of course the ones everybody loves like “Christmas Vacation,” “Home Alone” and “Elf.”

What are your go-to holiday foods?
We always have crab legs at my mom and dad’s. We’re always excited for crab legs at grandma and grandpa’s on Christmas Day in Grand Island. Sometimes we might have prime rib or brisket, and Grandma Riessland typically makes her mac and cheese, but it all centers around the crab legs. We also have a fun Christmas Eve tradition where nine of us have dinner at Kyoto after church. We’re usually the only people there, so we get our own hibachi. The kids ask every year if we’re going back, so it’s kind of become a thing with us.

What is the most memorable gift you received as a kid?
When I was young, probably about middle school age, my Grandma Riessland would sometimes get me jewelry. I always remember that being neat and thinking it was a fancy gift and pretty special.

What is your favorite Christmas memory from your childhood?
Just spending time with friends and family. We were always on the go, traveling to my grandma and grandpa’s homes in Amherst and Pleasanton. I loved that. We played a lot of 10-point pitch growing up, which we still do. The Riesslands are pretty competitive, so those games can be interesting. In my immediate family, I’m the most competitive, so there’s always a lot of discussion about who my partner is going to be. I’m the most competitive when it comes to my husband and kids, but when you bring in my extended family that’s a different story. Those people are totally nuts. All of my family lives really close, so we spend a lot of time together. It’s nonstop parties for us.

What does your Christmas tree look like?
Our tree has always been a little crazy. It’s nothing fancy and there are no rules or consistency when it comes to the ornaments and lights. This year, we got a real tree for the first time and put it downstairs. That one is a little more organized and has an outdoors theme. My daughter Paige’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and she’s adamant the trees don’t go up until after that, so ours go up the next day.

What makes the holidays special to you and/or your family?
It’s just a magical time. I love this time of year because everyone is happier and a little more joyous. We do a lot of fun things we really should be doing all year long, like coming home and watching movies as a family or just baking together. We go out of our way to play games and hang out with friends and special people in our lives, which we should always be doing.

Do you have any newer or current family traditions?
One Christmas gift to our kids the past few years has been a fun family weekend in downtown Lincoln, where we go to a Husker basketball game and ice skating in the Haymarket. We’re sad that’s not happening this year.