BCPL staff share their Thanksgiving traditions

(Kelsey Shackelford is the Community Events Liaison at the Main Library.)

Thanksgiving marks the official start of the holiday season, though according to most retail stores, we’ve been in the throes of the holidays since September. Thanksgiving often gets lost in the shuffle between Halloween and all of the winter holidays, but many people have certain traditions that are paramount to the fourth Thursday in November. Several members of our staff have traditions unique to their celebration of Thanksgiving.

Our Local History department has a couple of unique traditions in their families. Local History Associate Kelly Bilz’s family, has the tradition of not eating a full Thanksgiving meal until Friday. On the actual holiday, they order pizza and then go see a movie as a family. This year they are thinking about seeing Green Book. Hilary Delaney, Local History Public Associate, has an aunt that not only hosts the family celebration, but makes a butter sculpture each year. Last year, she made this turkey pictured below. Hilary can’t wait to see what she comes up with this year!

One of the fun things about Thanksgiving is that it allows for all types of different foods. Kim Johnson, Circulation Assistant, comes from a German family. They always eat Rotkohl (red cabbage) as a side dish. Rotkohl is sweetened with apple and it has a little bit of bacon in it. Kim isn’t a cabbage fan but loves this dish. They added green bean casserole to the menu for her husband later because that’s what he grew up with. Kim’s family also serves dinner around the Detroit Lions game, as she is from that area. Youth Services Community Events Liaison Micha O’Connor’s grandmother always makes oyster casserole. She couldn’t tell you how it tastes – only her uncle and cousin will touch it!

The holiday season is all about family. Sisters Nadine Swinford, Circulation Assistant, and Chelsea Swinford-Johantges, Youth Services Associate, celebrated Thanksgiving as kids by fasting until dinner so they could eat as much as possible and still have room for dessert. There are several vegetarians in their family, so they have two different meals out. Some of the dishes they have made over the years include stuffed tofu “turkey”,  seitan rouladeslentil balls, and veggie sushi (ordered in from Miyoshi). There are some dishes that make it to the table every year without fail: roast butternut squashmashed potatoes, and, of course, plenty of desserts. Chelsea’s favorite dessert to make is cranberry fluff.  For the last few years, Nadine and her mom have been making the majority of the desserts on Thanksgiving morning. Nadine says “even if no one is watching it, we always turn the Thanksgiving parade on while we bake. It doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without it, which is kind of odd, since we normally use it as background noise.” This year Nadine is attempting a pumpkin pie with no eggs and Chelsea is making balsamic tempeh.

Family traditions come in all shapes and sizes outside of food. Youth Services Associate Emily Sexton’s family has an annual talent show. Family members come up with singing acts and try to win votes for a cash prize. She says “While we are not a vocally gifted family by any means (and I say that with love), we do know how to put on a good show! Past years have included my aunt as Elton John, my cousin as Michael Jackson (complete with kiddo zombies), and an ‘excellent’ winning skit by my cousin and myself of Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World. We started with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen and wrapped it up with ‘Foxy Lady’ by Jimi Hendrix.”

Food sort of makes Public Service Associate Ed McLaughlin’s Thanksgiving unique every year. When Ed married his wife, she had a nine year old son. Ed made their “first turkey dinner with all the fixings.” According to Ed, “The boy thought I was too serious. So during dinner with his mother teasing me, I picked up a deviled egg and tossed it at her. It hit her glasses- a perfect shot that stuck to the lens and stayed on a few seconds before sliding off into her lap. I thought ‘I am a dead man.’ As she started choking up, I thought she was crying, but she wasn’t. She laughed so hard her son started to laugh and then the potatoes hit me.” He is now 33 and they have thrown a traditional retaliatory egg at Ed every year since.

Thanksgiving is a special time of year. We have downtime to spend with loved ones, watch sports or our favorite movies, and of course, eat great food. It’s a pleasant transition into what can sometimes be a hectic time of year for many people. We hope you have time to enjoy the holiday and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Kelsey Shackelford is the Community Events Liaison at the Main Library.


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