Some of our favorite holiday traditions

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

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year. Sometimes while we’re in the midst of the chaos, we forget why we put ourselves through it all. At the end of the day, one of the main objectives of the holiday turmoil is to spend time with loved ones. Several members of our Library staff celebrate in ways that are fun and unique to their cultures and families.

The food can be a bit repetitive this time of year. Samantha Walker, Circulation Manager, has tacos with her family each year for Christmas Day for this very reason. Dottie Oestreich, Administrative Assistant, has a popular tradition she has brought with her from Texas. Her family makes tamales and other types of Mexican food on Christmas Eve. Dottie says “There are a couple of ideologies about how this tradition has come to be: one is that the wrapped tamale symbolizes the Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothing. The second is that many families get together well before Christmas to prepare the tamales. This is almost a holiday in itself, because of the family time.”

Holiday traditions are special because they passed down through the generations and are introduced to new members as families expand. Hillary Delaney, Local History Associate, enjoys a Lithuanian dumpling at Christmas. Her mother-in-law has a family recipe handed down from her mother, who emigrated from Lithuania, that all the children and grandchildren learn how to make. They all make this dish together on Christmas. My husband’s family is Bulgarian and follow several of the traditional Bulgarian food customs for Christmas Eve dinner. The entire meal is vegetarian and only an odd number of dishes is allowed on the table. I brought a dessert the first year and it had to stay on the counter. Similar to king cake at Mardi Gras, there is a bread called koledna pitka (Christmas bread) that has coin hidden in it. Whoever finds the coin has good luck for the next year. The meal stays out overnight for the angels to feast upon.

Some of the most fun traditions are very unique to individual families. Sharon Franklin, Walton Branch Manager, annually has a dish they named Miriam’s Wedding Jello, Sharon’s best friend, Miriam, got married in 1970. As she tells it, “at the rehearsal dinner a fabulous, unfamiliar dessert was served.” Her mother and another lady tried numerous times to recreate it, were eventually successful, and continue to create the dessert each Christmas. Circulation Assistant Kimberly Johnson’s children receive pajamas on Christmas Eve from Santa’s elves, a tradition 16 years strong beginning with her oldest child. They spend much of the evening running back to their rooms to see if the pajamas have arrived, so the elves have to be sneaky!

The ultimate goal of most holiday activities is to have fun and spend quality time with the people you love. Our staff definitely know how to celebrate the season. We hope you have a wonderful time with all of your traditions, new and old!


Kelsey is the Adult Community Events Liaison at the Main Library. She loves the holiday season and all the different activities that go along with it. Kelsey enjoys seeing the Nutcracker each year, visiting Cincinnati Zoo’s Festival of Lights, and all the seasonal flavored treats and coffee.

The Perfect Gift Without the Chaos!

The perfect gift for everyone on my list, without any stress, is all I want for Christmas! I don’t enjoy spending hours walking from store to store or searching the internet.  But I love to be creative!  One of the best gifts you can give is a gift created by you or a gift chosen with a specific person in mind.  I guarantee this gift will last much longer than any item seen in a storefront window and will leave a greater impression.  Here are a few ideas:


My dear friend had this quilt made for her son using his high school and college T-shirts.

Personal Quilt

I am overwhelmed with the number of T-shirts in my house!  We have T-shirts for  events, student council, community service, school spirit wear, tournament champs, concerts, etc.  Collect the T-shirts belonging to one person and create a quilt. The person will love having all their memories in one spot!  This can also be done with baby clothes or favorite sports teams.  But don’t wait till the last minute to start this project!


Paint Pottery

Giving a piece of pottery is not only a great gift, but so fun to paint! Pick a piece of pottery that best suits the person you are shopping for and personalize it. A monogrammed coffee mug for the coffee drinker in your life is a perfect fit. Throw in a pouch of coffee. Or paint a vase and fill it with flowers for Grandma. Or create the perfect platter for your host/hostess and top it with an appetizer. It is a gift they can use continuously and think of you every time.


Found this old window and added black and white photos with Santa. It was a big hit!

Thrift gift

This is a fun gift exchange to do with adults!  Each participant in the gift exchange buys their gift from a thrift store.  Toss the gift suggestion list out the window because you have no idea what you are going to find when you walk in!  After you make your selection, you must repurpose the item into something else.  It will be fun to see who comes up with the most creative gift!


Record your talent!

There are several options with this gift!  If you are musically inclined, record yourself singing a personalized song or playing an instrument.  Another option is to write a poem or short story for a loved one and record yourself reading it.  This works really well for out of town grandparents or a loved one in the military.  The recipient will love listening to it over and over!


A simple note inside a beautiful book cover creates a personal gift and keepsake.

Books for children

I absolutely love to give children’s books as gifts. It is not necessarily a gift that gives instant gratification, but it is a gift that can be used over and over and over. The best part is that you can inscribe something on the inside cover that will forever remind the child who the book came from. And if you pick the perfect book, there is a great possibility the child will someday read that same book to their own kids. The choices are endless!




Freezer Meals

This is a great gift idea for the one on your list that hates to cook, cannot cook for themselves, or lives alone.  Put together several healthy freezer meals!  Even take it a step further and divide the cooked meals into individual servings so they can pull out what they need.  They will thank you every time they open their freezer.  But be sure they have enough freezer space to hold your gift!


The Globetrotters were so fan-friendly!  They made a lasting memory for a child that will never forget this Christmas gift.


Consider buying experiences! Tickets to a concert, play, symphony or performances of any kind are always a hit.  Excursions such as sky diving, race car driving, white water rafting, scuba diving, hot air balloon riding or other heart racing events are great for the adventurous person on your list.  Private lessons can be a personal gift for someone that has always wanted to learn something specific such as flying, sewing, playing an instrument, golfing, singing, dancing, tennis, etc.; the list is endless.  And don’t forget tickets to sporting events for the sports fan in your life!


Crayon Creations for children

Using broken crayons, create new crayons with pastry molds shaped like paw prints, hearts, snowmen or any other fun shape you can find.  Peel the paper off the crayons, chop them into tiny pieces, combine colors that complement each other and melt away!  Put the crayon shapes into plastic bags and tie with a festive bow.  Or combine with other craft items in a convenient carrying case.  Here is a link to creating new crayons from old crayons:


Fancy hats, old bridesmaid dresses and jewelry from your closet (as well as Aunt Millie’s) make great dress-ups for kids!

Dress-up Trunk for children

Search your closet and ask other family members for old prom/bridesmaid dresses, high heel shoes, costume jewelry, Derby hats, fancy gloves, fashion scarves, etc. that they no longer want.  Put everything into a trunk or decorated storage bin.  Your child will love all the new dress-ups!  And the adults will have just as much fun reminiscing what each dress or accessory was from.

Most importantly, have fun finding gifts from the heart and keep the shopping experience stress free so you can focus on the important things.  Happy Holidays!



Jennifer Cheek is the Public Relations Specialist at Boone County Public Library. A graduate from the College of Mount St. Joseph focusing on English and Communications, she previously worked in Advertising/Media Buying and still continues as a freelancer.