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History > 17th -18th - 19th century > America, USA


Thanksgiving - from 1621





Native American Girls

Describe the REAL History Behind Thanksgiving

Video    Teen Vogue    23 November 2016


6 Native American girls school us

on the REAL history of Thanksgiving.




















Nate Beeler


The Washington Examiner

Washington, D.C.


23 November 2005


















Adam Zyglis


Buffalo, NY, The Buffalo News


23 November 2005


















Mike Thompson


Detroit, Michigan

The Detroit Free Press


22 November 2005



















Mark Trail


Jack Elrod    Created by Ed Dodd in 1946    21 November 2004

















for Native Americans:

Four Voices

on a Complicated Holiday


The New York Times

By Julie Turkewitz

Nov. 23, 2017


“Do Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?”

The Native American artist Sherman Alexie, who is Spokane-Coeur d’Alene, writes in his poem “Happy Holidays!” that he is asked that question a dozen times a year.

The implicit assumption is that indigenous people would never celebrate a holiday tied up with the arrival of white settlers and the myths of American foundation. The truth is more complicated.

Excerpted here are perspectives from four Native American writers.



Sherman Alexie: A Story of Survival

Q. Do you feel like you’ve been able to make Thanksgiving your own?

A. You take the holiday and make it yours. That doesn’t strip it of its original meaning or its context. There’s still the really sad holiday as well. It is a holiday that commemorates the beginning of the end for us, the death of a culture. I guess you could say Thanksgiving is also about survival, look how strong we are.

Q. How do you talk to your kids about the Thanksgiving story?

A. You just tell them the truth, the long historical nature of it. They’re quite aware of what happened to us, the genocide and the way in which we survive and the way in which my wife and I have survived our individual Indian autobiographies.

I guess it’s trash talking: “Look, you tried to kill us all, and you couldn’t.” We’re still here, waving the turkey leg in the face of evil.

— Interview in Bitch Media



Winona LaDuke: Tired of Being Invisible

There is this magical made-up time between Columbus Day (or Indigenous People’s Day for the enlightened) and Thanksgiving, where white Americans think about native people. That’s sort of our window.

November is Native American Heritage Month. Before that, of course, is Halloween. Until about three years ago, one of the most popular Halloween costumes was Pocahontas. People know nothing about us, but they like to dress up like us or have us as a mascot.

We are invisible. Take it from me. I travel a lot, and often ask this question: Can you name 10 indigenous nations? Often, no one can name us. The most common nations named are Lakota, Cherokee, Navajo, Cheyenne and Blackfeet — mostly native people from western movies. This is the problem with history. If you make the victim disappear, there is no crime. And we just disappeared. When I travel, I get this feeling someone has seen a unicorn in the airport.

— Essay in Inforum



Jacqueline Keeler: A Hidden Heart

I see, in the First Thanksgiving story, a hidden Pilgrim heart. The story of that heart is the real tale than needs to be told. What did it hold? Bigotry, hatred, greed, self-righteousness? We have seen the evil that it caused in the 350 years since. Genocide, environmental devastation, poverty, world wars, racism.

Where is the hero who will destroy that heart of evil? I believe it must be each of us. Indeed, when I give thanks this Thursday and I cook my native food, I will be thinking of this hidden heart and how my ancestors survived the evil it caused.

Because if we can survive, with our ability to share and to give intact, then the evil and the good will that met that Thanksgiving Day in the land of the Wampanoag will have come full circle.

And the healing can begin.

— Essay from the Pacific News Service



Simon Moya-Smith: When We Commemorate

Native American Heritage Day falls on the one day each year when Americans ravenously indulge in material possessions — Black Friday. So is this an insult to Native Americans? Of course it is. How could it not be?

If Native American Heritage Day fell on Nov. 5, for example, then students would be in the classroom and teachers could offer lessons about the Native American today. But no. Instead, streams of bundled-up shoppers are standing in line to make their purchases, with the class the last thing on any kids’ minds as they sit watching TV.

If we’re going to choose a day for Native American Heritage Day when school is out, then how about Thanksgiving Day itself? Why not? That way we could learn about the real history of the holiday, and not the romanticized version we all hear about.

— Essay on CNN

Thanksgiving for Native Americans:
Four Voices on a Complicated Holiday,
23 November 2017,






Where Pilgrims Landed,

Thanksgiving Is Kept at Table,

Not Mall


November 20, 2012

The New York Times



PLYMOUTH, Mass. — Here in the birthplace of Thanksgiving, where the Pilgrims first gave thanks in 1621 for their harvest and their survival, some residents are giving thanks this year for something else: the Colonial-era blue laws that prevent retailers from opening their doors on the fourth Thursday of November.

While shoppers in the rest of the country will skip out on Thanksgiving to go to Walmart or Kmart or other big-box stores, William Wrestling Brewster, whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower and participated in that first Thanksgiving, will limit his activities to enjoying a traditional meal here with his extended family at his parents’ house.

“Thanksgiving is supposed to be about giving thanks for all you have,” said Mr. Brewster, 47, who runs a computer repair business. “I cringe to think what society is doing to itself,” he said of the mercantile mania that threatens one of the least commercial holidays.

Some of the nation’s biggest retailers — Sears, Target and Toys “R” Us among them — announced this month that they would be moving up their predawn Black Friday door-buster sales to Thanksgiving Day or moving up their existing Thanksgiving sales even earlier on Thursday. Walmart, which has already been open on Thanksgiving for many years, is advancing its bargain specials to 8 p.m. Thursday from 10 p.m.

But in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the stores will sit dark until the wee hours of Friday. Even Walmart will not open in Maine until just after midnight Friday or in Massachusetts or Rhode Island until 1 a.m.

New England’s blue laws were put down by early settlers to enforce proper behavior on Sundays. (The origin of the term is unclear. Some have said the laws were printed on blue paper, while others have said the word “blue” was meant to disparage those like the “blue noses” who imposed rigid moral codes on others.)

Over decades, many of those laws — which banned commerce, entertainment and the sale of alcohol, among other things — were tossed aside or ignored, or exemptions were granted. In some cases, the statutes were extended to holidays and barred retailers specifically from operating on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Maine granted an exception to L. L. Bean, whose store in Freeport is open around the clock every day, including Christmas. When the blue laws, which had faded, were revived in the 1950s, the store in Freeport was already operating 24/7, said Carolyn Beem, a spokeswoman. She said that the store, which originally catered to hunters and fishermen who shopped at odd hours, was grandfathered in and allowed to stay open on the holidays.

Nationwide, a protest is developing against Thanksgiving Day sales. Workers at some stores have threatened to strike, saying the holiday openings were disrupting their family time. Online petitions have drawn hundreds of thousands of signatures protesting the move. The stores say that many of their workers have volunteered to work on the holiday, when they will get extra pay, and that consumers wanted to shop early. It is not yet clear what effect the protests might have.

At the same time, this corner of New England is serving as something of a bulwark against the forces of commercialism.

Even the Retailers Association of Massachusetts is treading gently on the notion of Thanksgiving sales.

“There hasn’t been any outcry from our members over the years pushing this,” said Bill Rennie, vice president of the association.

But, as Thanksgiving shopping becomes more common, he said, “it may be time to have a discussion about it.”

Blue laws seem anachronistic when people can shop anytime online, he said.

There is also the case of simple economics. These states are already at risk of losing sales to stores in New Hampshire, which has no sales tax. Now, Mr. Rennie pointed out, they could lose even more in the holiday bargain rush when stores in New Hampshire are open and stores here are closed.

Still, Barry Finegold, a Massachusetts state senator whose district abuts New Hampshire, said that so far, none of the retailers in his district had asked for a change in the law.

“My phone has not been ringing off the hook,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s not a national tragedy if Walmart can’t open at 8 o’clock on Thanksgiving Day.”

Even several shoppers at Plymouth’s Walmart Supercenter said they did not want the store open on Thursday.

“Leave the holidays alone,” said Carole A. Maiona, 72, a retired medical records worker, as her husband wheeled a shopping cart out of the store the other day. “The family should be together and not out shopping and supplying Walmart or whoever with more money.”

William Lorenzo, 35, who serves in the Coast Guard, said Thanksgiving sales were unfair to employees. “It’s not very American to make these people work on a holiday,” he said, packing his groceries into his van.

His wife, Nicole, 33, agreed — to a point. She confessed that she went shopping last year at 5 a.m. on Black Friday. “I don’t go just to go,” she said. “But if I can get a better deal — we’re a family of five, one income — if I can get a deal, I’ll get the deal.”

Some shoppers said they were so eager for bargains that they would drive to New Hampshire on Thanksgiving.

“We’re going,” said Jen Gallagher, 34, who works in grant management. Early odd-hour shopping has, for her, become a tradition.

“I like the hustle and bustle of it,” she said. Her husband stays home with the children, “and I sneak out,” she said. “And before anybody wakes up, I’m done, the gifts are hidden.”

Beyond the malls, Plymouth has its version of a Thanksgiving mob scene. The Plimoth Plantation, a living museum (spelled the old-fashioned way) that tells the story of the original colonists, draws about 4,000 visitors on Thanksgiving Day, about half of whom will have dinner there.

A family does not have to have come over on the Mayflower to appreciate Thanksgiving here. Olly deMacedo, who came to this country from the Cape Verde islands in 1966 when he was 7, started his journey on a freighter. Now, he is a driving force behind the town’s annual Thanksgiving celebration, which includes a parade, food festival and concerts. All are held the weekend before Thanksgiving — 200,000 people came this year — so as not to interfere with the day itself.

“To have the parade on Thursday, or shopping on Thursday, would pull people away from the very thing we’re celebrating,” Mr. deMacedo said.

Among those in the parade Saturday was Rebecca Tuchak, 33, a restaurant manager, who was dressed in Pilgrim garb and riding a float that honored the first Thanksgiving. As she held her 3-month-old daughter, she said she had been staggered to learn that of the original 102 Mayflower passengers, about half had died during their first winter here.

“It’s amazing to think of all the things we have and all the things they didn’t have, and yet they still gave thanks,” she said. “I don’t think you’ll find a group of people more against opening stores on Thanksgiving than us.”



This article has been revised

to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 20, 2012

An earlier version of this article

misstated William Wrestling Brewster’s occupation.

He runs a computer repair business,

not a computer store.

    Where Pilgrims Landed, Thanksgiving Is Kept at Table, Not Mall,
    NYT, 20.11.2012,






In the Pilgrims’ Footsteps,

Through England

and the Netherlands


November 17, 2011
The New York Times


LAST Thanksgiving my wife was trying to explain to our granddaughter, Lizzie, 5 at the time, that some of her ancestors had been participants at the original 1621 feast in Plymouth. “I know,” said Lizzie, who apparently had been learning about Thanksgiving in school. “We’re Indians!”

Actually, Lizzie’s forebears were Pilgrims. (My wife, like several million Americans at this point, is a Mayflower descendant.) Nowadays Pilgrims, with their funny, steeple-crowned hats and buckle shoes and their gloomy, pious ways (no games on Sunday, no celebrating even of Christmas!), have gone out of fashion. It’s true that upon arriving in the New World they were so hapless that they would surely have perished during their first winter without the help of the American Indians.

But the Pilgrims were nevertheless heroic in their way. There were a great many Puritans in England at the beginning of the 17th century who wanted to purge Christianity of what they considered the laxity and corruption introduced by Rome and by the insufficiently rigorous Church of England. But only a few hundred of them felt strongly enough to become separatists and emigrate to another land.

What they objected to in the established church may seem fussy and trivial today: the wearing of surplices, the exchange of wedding rings, making the sign of the cross at baptism. But at the heart of their convictions was also a radical political thought: that the state had no business in the running of religion, and that congregations had the right to elect their own leaders.

The 102 passengers who sailed on the Mayflower in September 1620 came from all over England (and not all of them were religiously motivated), but the leaders of the separatist movement came from just a handful of farming villages in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and southern Yorkshire, most within walking distance of one another. This is not the touristy, thatched-cottage part of England, but it is beautiful nonetheless, and last spring my wife and I visited to see what we could learn about her ancestors, who in so many ways are forefathers to us all.

We made the underappreciated cathedral town of Lincoln our base, and stayed at the White Hart Hotel in a charming upstairs room that overlooked the cathedral close. John Ruskin, the great English art critic, called the town’s cathedral “out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles,” which did not prevent the dean and chapter from renting it out as a location for the film “The Da Vinci Code.” It really is a towering wonder, visible from miles around. Clearly I would not have made a good Puritan, for of all the churches we visited, this is the one, with its cassock-wearing choristers, flickering candles and rumbling organ, that I liked the best.

Lincoln also has some interesting Roman ruins and a couple of good restaurants. At the bottom of the aptly named Steep Hill, there is one exceptional restaurant with a name that would probably summon forth pickets in the United States. It’s called the Jews House, which is what it was in the 13th century, when Lincoln was home to one of the largest Jewish populations in England. Far from being an ethnic restaurant, the Jews House these days serves a lot of food that observant Jews are not allowed to eat: dishes like pork belly with miso glaze and pan-fried tiger prawns with melon sorbet.

To visit the villages of the Pilgrim leaders, all you really need is a map and a car. We had the additional benefit of Nick Bunker, author of “Making Haste From Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and the New World” (Knopf, 2010), who, after working as a stockbroker in London, now lives in an old, partly Norman house in Lincoln, where he writes full time. He was wearing riding breeches, stout boots and thick knee socks — not strictly necessary but a nice, squire-like touch. He took us first not to one of the Pilgrim sites but to the Church of St. Lawrence, in the all-but-abandoned village of Snarford. The tiny stone building gives no suggestion of the extravagant alabaster statues within — funeral monuments of the St. Paul family, local grandees who became staunch Puritans. Sir George, the last and wealthiest of the clan, and his wife, Frances Wray, are propped up on their right elbows, as if watching television on the couch. He’s wearing armor and she has on a starched white ruff.

The almost lurid colors of the statues take a little getting used to if you have grown up on notions of Puritan somberness, and the general splendor of the little church is an important clue to the Pilgrims. Unlike so many radical religious movements, theirs did not take hold among the poor and downtrodden but, rather, among small landowners and yeoman farmers. Many of them could read, a fairly unusual accomplishment then but a useful one for a group that believed wisdom derived from personal study of the Scriptures.

The most important of the Pilgrim villages, and probably the epicenter of the whole separatist movement, is Scrooby, in Nottinghamshire, where William Brewster, the local postmaster and later a Pilgrim leader, lived and held clandestine religious services in a large manor house. Scrooby today is a bit of a backwater and most of the house (which is now in private hands) was demolished in 1636.

You can still see traces of the moat and fishponds that once surrounded this grand establishment, and in the nearby market town of Gainsborough, another Puritan stronghold, there is an enormous half-timbered Elizabethan manor that gives an idea of what Scrooby Manor must have been like. In Gainsborough, especially, the Puritans were not rubes but bustling men of business.

Not far from Scrooby is the modest Yorkshire village of Austerfield, where William Bradford, the second governor of the Plymouth Colony, grew up; orphaned, he found solace in the radical preaching that could be heard in the area. In the other direction is Babworth, a pretty little hamlet where Richard Clifton, an important separatist thinker, was rector of the local church.

Then there is Sturton le Steeple, where these days at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Fisher-Price toys, for child-minding, are parked next to a sarcophagus. Sturton, a large and still prosperous-looking village, was the birthplace of both John Robinson, the charismatic spiritual leader of the Pilgrims, and John Smyth, who led a large separatist congregation but eventually became even more important in the Baptist movement.

More than anything else it was probably the critical mass of such men — eloquent, passionate, many of them educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge — that accounts for why this area became such a hotbed of separatism. It also did not hurt that the main religious authority was the Archbishop of York, who, being more worried about Roman Catholics, took a fairly relaxed attitude toward the Puritans.

But could the landscape itself have been a factor? This is farming country, so flat that a modest little mound in the Nottinghamshire village of Gringley-on-the-Hill is a local landmark. Nick Bunker took us up there one morning, and though the view has changed a lot since the 17th century — much of the land has been drained, and there is a big power station to the north — you can still get a sense of what it must have been like. The sky is endless, the horizon flat, the light soft and Hopperish. There are marshes, woods, heaths, pasturelands and fields of red clay. Though far from the sea, it is a countryside, Mr. Bunker suggested, that in some ways resembles what the Pilgrims found in New England. It’s also the kind of landscape that urges you to spread out and — far from bishops and bureaucrats down south — think daring, independent thoughts.

So why did they leave? For one thing, the king and a new Archbishop of York had begun cracking down on them. The Scrooby congregation also interpreted a devastating flood that surged up the Bristol Channel in January 1607 as a sign of divine disapproval. Later that year a large group tried to flee the country, booking passage from the Lincolnshire port of Boston. They were betrayed by the ship’s captain, however, and the leaders, including Brewster, were imprisoned in the town’s medieval guild hall. (Once a port second in importance only to London, Boston is now down at the heels a little, though still worth a visit thanks to the local church, St. Botolph’s, and the guild hall, now a museum.)

A year later the separatists tried again, and a handful of them made it to Amsterdam, where they were followed by a steady trickle of others from the Scrooby area. “They all got over at length,” Bradford wrote, “some at one time and some at another, and some in one place and some in another, and met again according to their desires, with no small rejoicing.”

After a year or so, the flock, now numbering 100 or so, moved south to the town of Leiden. My wife and I came to like this university town even more than Amsterdam, though the bike riders are apt to run over the unwary. One afternoon I saw a woman pedaling her young child on the crossbars while also texting.

Many of the canals in Leiden are wider and leafier than those in Amsterdam, and there are extensive public gardens belonging to the university. But in the 17th century Leiden was also an industrial town, noisome and crowded. The English immigrants, like most people, worked in the textile business, weaving cloth on looms in the home, and they sorely missed rural life. William Bradford lived on a canal, not far from Haarlemmerstraat, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare, that was so foul it eventually had to be filled in. The entrance to the alley where he lived is today across from an H & M store. William Brewster lived on an alley appropriately known as Stincksteeg. There is a plaque marking the spot and, in a window where his house once was, a poster of Marilyn Monroe. Like most of the English Pilgrims at Leiden, Brewster lived near the Pieterskerk, the city’s grandest church, still imposing though much of the ornament was stripped out during the Reformation.

The only remaining Pilgrim house is also in this neighborhood, on the corner of the Pieterskerkhof and the Kloksteeg, but it has been so modernized that you would never take it for a 17th-century dwelling. To get a better idea of how the Pilgrims lived you need to visit the American Pilgrim Museum, a brick house near the Hooglandse Kerk presided over by the genial and drily ironic Jeremy Bangs, author of the immense and immensely knowledgeable book “Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners: Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation” (General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2009).

It is the oldest house in Leiden, dating back to the 14th century, and typical of a Pilgrim dwelling: a single 8-by-14-foot room with a stone floor, small leaded windows, a big medieval fireplace. The parents would have slept sitting up in a box bed (because lying flat was thought to cause disease) and the children on the floor. Somewhere in there a loom would have been crammed.

It was for the sake of the children, Bradford later wrote, that the Pilgrims decided to move on to the New World. In Leiden they had to work from an early age and many of them were learning Dutch and adopting Dutch customs. But the cramped, slumlike conditions, so far from the open Scrooby landscape, also had something to do with the decision.

Not all of them went. Some were fearful. Some, like John Robinson, stayed behind to tend the Leiden flock. Had he gone to New England, history — especially the relations between the Pilgrims and the Indians — might have been different. In Mr. Bangs’s account, Robinson emerges as a man of singular intelligence and liberality who decided, for example, that St. Paul was wrong and that women should feel free to speak up in church.

Another Leidenite, Thomas Blossom, was a passenger on the Speedwell, the Mayflower’s companion vessel, which sprang a leak and had to turn back. He eventually made the journey in 1629, joining the colony at Plymouth, where he became first deacon of the church. This might be of interest to those concerned about President Obama’s Americanness, for Blossom is one of his ancestors.

My wife happened to bring this up a few weeks later when we were completing our Pilgrim journey by making a visit to Plimouth Plantation, a replica of the original colony in Plymouth, Mass., where historical re-enactors take the part of the historical Pilgrims. She got into a conversation with a woman in a bonnet and voluminous skirt cooking over a fire. “You know, a descendant of one of your brethren eventually became president,” my wife said.

The woman looked at her and said, “President of what, Miss?”



There are direct flights from New York to the East Midlands airport in Nottingham, about an hour away, or you can drive or take the train from London, which will take three to four hours. To get around the Pilgrim landscape, you will need a car, some good maps, and GPS wouldn’t hurt, though even that may not help when it comes to navigating Lincoln’s many and confusing one-way streets. Luckily, the police seem tolerant of bewildered Yanks. The cathedral and the Stump, the great church in Boston, are open daily, but the various parish churches have more limited schedules and some are open only by appointment. It is best to write or call ahead to the parish secretary.

The White Hart Hotel (www.whitehart-lincoln.co.uk) is charming, ideally situated at 87 Ballgate, across from the cathedral close, and — a valuable perk — comes with parking. Double rooms, with breakfast, start at about £99 (about $156, at $1.57 to the pound). The food at the White Hart is more than acceptable, but it would be a mistake not to try the Jews House, the city’s best restaurant, housed in its oldest and most picturesque building (jewshouserestaurant.co.uk). Less ambitious and more traditionally English is the nearby Wig and Mitre, a Victorian pub-style restaurant that features things like braised beef and roast wood pigeon (wigandmitre.com).



Car rentals are much more expensive in the Netherlands than in England, and because the country is so small and the Dutch train system so good, a car here is really more a hindrance than a help. Trains from Amsterdam to Leiden run every 15 minutes or so; the trip takes a little over half an hour and costs 14 euros (about $19, at $1.35 to the euro).

Leiden is itself easily and pleasantly walkable. A good way to preview the city and get your bearings is to take a boat tour through Leiden’s many canals. Several companies offer these trips, almost all with narration in English available, and there is usually a boat of one sort or another leaving every few minutes from the Beestenmarkt. Fares are mostly under 10 euros for a ride of roughly one hour.

Though outstanding in just about every other way, Leiden is not a city of great hotels. The Nieuw Minerva occupies what used to be six 16th-century houses facing one of the city’s many canals and is best appreciated from the outside. The rooms are serviceable, not very expensive by European standards (starting at $78 for a double) and the location is ideal: a short walk from the Central Station and just around the corner from the Haarlemmerstraat, one of the city’s two main drags.

The two essential Pilgrim sites in Leiden are the great Pieterskerk, or Peter’s Church, which became the Puritan John Robinson’s adoptive home, and the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, easily found by heading for the hard to-miss belltower of the Hooglandse Kerk, or Highland Church. (That it could be called such suggests that the flatland-dwelling Dutch have very different ideas of altitude from ours.) The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m.; admission 3 euros.

In Leiden, as elsewhere in the Netherlands, it is surprisingly difficult to find authentic Dutch food. A good all-purpose bistro, lively and reasonably priced, is the City Hall Restaurant (restaurantcityhall.nl), as the name suggests, behind Leiden’s 17th-century city hall, a building whose grandness suggests how seriously the town fathers took the notion of civic government.

Elsewhere in town are lots of bars serving authentic jenever, not to be confused with gin and a drink the Pilgrims were probably advised to stay away from. Not for nothing is a shot of jenever, tossed down after a beer, known as a kopstoot, or a head butt.



is a writer at large for The New York Times.

    In the Pilgrims’ Footsteps, Through England and the Netherlands,
    NYT, 17.11.2011,

    Related > http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2011/11/20/travel/20PILGRIMS.html






Today in History - Nov. 22


November 22, 2007
Filed at 12:01 a.m. ET
The New York Times


Today is Thursday, Nov. 22, the 326th day of 2007. There are 39 days left in the year. This is Thanksgiving Day.

Today's Highlight in History:

On Nov. 22, 1963, President Kennedy was shot to death while riding in a motorcade in Dallas. Texas Gov. John B. Connally, in the same limousine as Kennedy, was seriously wounded. Suspect Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested.

On this date:

In 1718, English pirate Edward Teach -- better known as ''Blackbeard'' -- was killed during a battle off the Virginia coast.

In 1890, French President Charles de Gaulle was born in Lille, France.

In 1928, ''Bolero'' by Maurice Ravel made its debut in Paris.

In 1935, a flying boat, the China Clipper, took off from Alameda, Calif., carrying more than 100,000 pieces of mail on the first trans-Pacific airmail flight.

In 1943, President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek met in Cairo to discuss the war against Japan.

In 1943, lyricist Lorenz Hart died in New York at age 48.

In 1965, the musical ''Man of La Mancha'' opened in New York.

In 1967, the U.N. Security Council approved Resolution 242, which called for Israel to withdraw from territories it had captured the previous June, and implicitly called on adversaries to recognize Israel's right to exist.

In 1975, Juan Carlos was proclaimed king of Spain.

In 1990, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, having failed to win re-election of the Conservative Party leadership on the first ballot, announced her resignation.

Ten years ago: U.N. weapons experts resumed work in Iraq, searching eight sites for signs the Iraqis might have worked on biological, chemical or other banned arms during a three-week forced halt in inspections.

Five years ago: At the NATO summit in Prague, Russian President Vladimir Putin told President Bush the United States should not wage war alone against Iraq, and questioned whether Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were doing enough to fight terrorism. The Bush administration eased clean air rules to allow utilities, refineries and manufacturers to avoid having to install new anti-pollution equipment when they modernized their plants.

One year ago: A chemical factory explosion in Danvers, Mass., destroyed the surrounding neighborhood but caused no deaths or serious injuries.

Today's Birthdays: Former Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., is 89. Movie director Arthur Hiller is 84. Actor Robert Vaughn is 75. Actor Michael Callan is 72. Actor Allen Garfield is 68. Animator and movie director Terry Gilliam is 67. Actor Tom Conti is 66. Singer Jesse Colin Young is 66. Astronaut Guion S. Bluford is 65. Tennis player Billie Jean King is 64. Rock musician-actor Steve Van Zandt (aka Little Steven) is 57. Rock musician Tina Weymouth (The Heads; Talking Heads; The Tom Tom Club) is 57. Former baseball player Greg Luzinski is 57. Rock musician Lawrence Gowan is 51. Actor Richard Kind is 51. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis is 49. Rock singer Jason Ringenberg (Jason & the Scorchers) is 49. Actress Mariel Hemingway is 46. Actor Stephen Geoffreys is 43. Rock musician Charlie Colin is 41. Actor Nicholas Rowe is 41. Actor Mark Ruffalo is 40. Tennis player Boris Becker is 40. Actress Scarlett Johansson is 23.

Thought for Today: ''A man does what he must -- in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures -- and that is the basis of all human morality.'' -- John F. Kennedy, American president (1917-1963).

    Today in History - Nov. 22, NYT, 22.11.2007,






New balloons, warm weather

mark Macy's parade


22 November 2007
USA Today


NEW YORK (AP) — Unseasonably balmy weather greeted cheering crowds as the giant balloons in the traditional Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade floated through the streets of Manhattan.

"My 5-year-old and the beautiful weather" helped prompt Dorothea Geiger to join the throng of spectators waiting at the end of the parade outside Macy's giant store, where Lauren ticked off a list of her favorite parade characters, topped by Dora the Explorer, Shrek and Scooby Doo.

"And we're going to see Santa. Did you know that?" Geiger, 38, of Freeport, told Lauren, eliciting a squeal.

The parade, held on a sunny morning with a temperature nearing 60 degrees, offered a mix of new attractions and longtime favorites, solemn tributes and lighthearted spectacle.

Shrieking youngsters lined the streets as the balloon floated down Central Park West, including an imposing Ronald McDonald and a huge Snoopy controlled by several dozen volunteers holding ropes.

"We never dreamed we would get up this close; a nice New York City policeman let us through," said Carole Kagan of Chicago. Her awestruck daughter Elena, 8, screamed with excitement and pressed against a metal barrier as the "Barbie as the Island Princess" float passed.

Carrying banners and flags, some 10,000 participants — half of them Macy's employees — set out on the parade route down the west side of Central Park, then down Broadway through Times Square. The lineup included three new balloons, 2,000 cheerleaders, 800 clowns, the Radio City Rockettes and 11 marching bands — including the Virginia Tech Regimental Band, playing in honor of the victims of last spring's campus shooting.

"The whole experience is special," said Rich Piasio of Wilmington, N.C. He and his wife wore Virginia Tech sweatshirts as they waited for the band.

"It's kind of nice after what they went through," said Linda Piasio, a native of Blacksburg, Va., where the school is located.

Near Columbus Circle, people cheered as the white-uniformed Tech band, nicknamed the Highty-Tighties, put on an elaborate marching show.

The 81st annual parade started with a Michael Feinstein tune specially written for 600 kids from around the nation, whose opening number was choreographed by John Dietrich of the Rockettes.

The festivities began Wednesday night when workers inflated 11 giant helium balloons, including the new ones: William Steig's swamp-loving ogre Shrek, Sesame Street's fairy-in-training Abby Cadabby and Hello Kitty Supercute, the cape- and tiara-wearing feline superhero.

The parade also is one of two opportunities a year for Broadway to strut its stuff on national television. But for the cast of Legally Blonde, the parade was a showcase without a show.

The musical is one of more than two dozen productions shuttered by a Broadway stagehands strike. Although its cast won a spot in the parade, their costumes and props were locked behind the stagehands' picket lines.

Four Broadway shows —Legally Blonde, Mary Poppins, Young Frankenstein and Xanadu— nabbed coveted positions in the parade, the only annual event besides the Tony Awards that provides a TV spotlight for the Great White Way.

But because of the stagehands' contract dispute with the League of American Theatres and Producers, cast members of Legally Blonde couldn't use their costumes and props when they perform the show's "What You Want."

"We're going to have a national spot on television, and we're going to be half represented," said Jerry Mitchell, the show's director and choreographer. "We're going to be the only musical performing without our props and costumes, which I find very disheartening."

Because anyone appearing in the parade falls under a TV contract with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Legally Blonde performers were not crossing picket lines by marching, according to their union, Actors' Equity.

The other three Broadway productions in the parade were not on strike because their theaters have separate contracts with the league.

    New balloons, warm weather mark Macy's parade, UT, 22.11.2007,






Cost of Thanksgiving meal

rises 11 percent: survey


Thu Nov 15, 2007
5:07pm EST


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. consumers will pay 11 percent more for the traditional Thanksgiving meal this year, due in part to higher energy costs, the American Farm Bureau Federation said on Thursday.

Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people with customary dishes like turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie will cost an average $42.26, up $4.16 from $38.10 last year.

A higher turkey price was the largest contributor to the increase in the cost for this year's feast. The trade group's 22nd annual informal survey of prices found that a 16-pound turkey cost $1.93 more this year at $17.63.

"The inventory of birds in cold storage is relatively small this year. This has helped drive up the average retail turkey price," said Jim Sartwelle, an AFBF economist.

Higher fuel costs to deliver the turkey and other food items also pushed up the price for this year's meal.

"The tremendous increase in energy costs for transportation and processing over the past year also is a key factor behind higher retail prices at the grocery store," Sartwelle said.

Other items that increased in price this year include a gallon of whole milk at $3.88, a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix at $2.13, three pounds of sweet potatoes at $3.08 and a 12-ounce package of fresh cranberries at $2.20.

Adjusting prices for inflation, food costs have actually remained stable over the years, Sartwelle said, with the inflation adjusted cost of a Thanksgiving dinner remaining around $20 for the past 17 years.

"Consumers can enjoy a wholesome, home-cooked turkey dinner for just over $4 a person -- less than a typical fast-food meal. That's an amazing deal, any way you slice it," he said.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

    Cost of Thanksgiving meal rises 11 percent: survey, R, 22.11.2007,






Cost of Thanksgiving soaring:

Merrill Lynch


Thu Nov 22, 2007
11:44am EST
By Kristina Cooke


NEW YORK (Reuters) - The cost of Thanksgiving is soaring, according to investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co, which may help explain the gloom among U.S. consumers as they head into the holiday season.

Merrill Lynch, the world's biggest brokerage and one of the most powerful names on Wall Street, calculated a Thanksgiving cost-of-giving index using the prices of traditional holiday meal items such as turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie -- as well as the cost of flowers, gifts ranging from toys to clothing and electronics, plus gasoline, hotels, air fare, and greeting cards.

The index has risen 7.9 percent year-over-year in the approach to the festive season -- a huge swing from a drop of 4.4 percent a year ago. In fact, this is more than double the historical trend for this time of year and the second highest since 1999, said David Rosenberg, Merrill Lynch North American

economist, in a report.

"One reason why consumer confidence is receding at a time of year when everyone would be so joyous may be because the cost of partaking in the holiday spirit has soared and bitten deeply into purchasing power," he wrote.

"Black Friday," the day after Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday and the start of the traditional year-end spending spree, threatens to be a Bleak Friday this time around.

The Black Friday moniker stems from the time when U.S. retailers rang up enough sales on the day after Thanksgiving to turn the corner into the black -- or profitability -- for the year, as Americans started their annual Christmas shopping. Now such sales are anything but a certainty, with Wal-Mart Stores Inc and other big retailers starting to offer holiday sales discounts much earlier this year.

Earlier on Wednesday, a Reuters/University of Michigan survey showed U.S. consumer sentiment fell in November to its lowest in two years as gasoline prices soared and the housing market downturn threatened to ensnare more Americans.



The past few months have been "challenging" for Merrill Lynch and others in the financial industry, according to a release headlined "Why Merrill Lynch is Still Bullish on Merrill Lynch," dated November 12.

Merrill Lynch, a Wall Street powerhouse whose marketing symbol is the bull, noted in the November 12 statement that "our financial position and liquidity remain strong." It added:

"Even with adverse mortgage-related results in the third quarter, the company's net earnings totaled $2 billion and net revenue totaled $20 billion for the first nine months of the year."

On October 30, Merrill Lynch said Chairman and Chief Executive Stan O'Neal retired. His tenure came abruptly to an end after he misjudged the company's exposure to risky subprime mortgage loans, triggering the largest quarterly loss in Merrill Lynch's 93-year history.

On November 14, Merrill Lynch named NYSE Euronext Chief Executive John Thain as its new chairman and CEO, effective December 1. Thain earned an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1979 and had worked at Goldman Sachs for more than 20 years in several senior executive positions, where he was president and chief operating officer before he joined the NYSE as its CEO in January 2004.


(Editing by Jan Paschal)

    Cost of Thanksgiving soaring: Merrill Lynch, R, 22.11.2007,






Let Us Give Thanks. In Writing.


November 22, 2007
The New York Times


IT is Thanksgiving Day, the one day of the year when you’re expected to be grateful.

But according to an army of psychologists, writers and talk show hosts like Oprah, giving thanks only today is a lost opportunity. You should be grateful all the time, they say, and one of the best ways is in writing — by keeping a “gratitude journal.”

Television programs, books, radio shows and Web sites point to research that shows that keeping a list of things you’re thankful for can make you happier.

Could this mild exercise, jotting down a few grateful thoughts, really be the key to contentment? It seems a little too easy, like those infomercials that promise a stomach to die for with just five minutes a day on the Abdomenizer or a full head of hair by spraying a can of gunk on your bald spot.

I found it hard to believe, so I decided to see for myself. I started a gratitude journal.

Now, mind you, in the words of a colleague, I am not one of the grumpier people around. I like to think that my innate level of happiness — my “set point,” as psychologists call it, which I can go a bit above or below, depending on circumstances — is fairly high. But according to proponents of what is known as positive psychology, by keeping a journal I should become happier still.

Robert Emmons, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, and a leading expert in positive psychology, whetted my appetite for what could come.

“There are really tangible, concrete benefits to being grateful,” said Dr. Emmons, the author of “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier” (Houghton Mifflin).

Health improves, relationships get better, people are more active and enthusiastic. There are benefits for others, too, as happier people are more creative, productive and easier to be around.

Dr. Emmons said that even people who are lonely and isolated can become less so. “If you can combat those feelings by the simple practice of keeping a gratitude journal, that’s a pretty significant finding,” he said.

(For the record, not only am I not all that grumpy, I am also not particularly lonely and isolated. In case you were wondering.)

But early on in my writing exercises I learned one thing: Keeping a journal may be simple, as Dr. Emmons says, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

For instance, there is the sheer discipline of writing. At first, I merely scribbled random, not particularly insightful thoughts.

“The key is not just to write it down, but to write it down mindfully — to focus, to imagine, to re-experience,” said Tal Ben-Shahar, a lecturer in psychology at Harvard and the author of the recent book “Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment” (McGraw-Hill). That way, he added, we become aware of good things that have happened to us. “If we’re not aware of the good things in our lives, then as far as we’re concerned they don’t exist.”

For me, though, there was the question of what good things I should be aware of. I started with sweeping platitudes about being thankful for having a roof over my head, and for having wonderful friends and family, but I found it all too broad and open-ended and ultimately unsatisfying. It turns out I’m not alone in those kinds of feelings.

“I was sort of annoyed by my gratitude journal,” said Gretchen Rubin, who chronicled the year she spent trying to become happier in a book, “The Happiness Project,” to be published in 2009, and a blog (happinessproject.typepad.com).

While she acknowledged that journals work for many people — “it’s probably one of the top five things for increasing happiness,” she said — it was a trial for her.

“It’s so limitless,” she said. “ ‘I’m grateful for air conditioning. I’m grateful for living in a democratic society.’ I didn’t find it particularly happiness-inducing.”

Ms. Rubin found other ways to express her gratitude. A lawyer turned writer, she found that just opening her laptop every day made her feel grateful for her new career.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, whose book, “The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want” (Penguin Press), comes out next month, said that for some people gratitude journals are a chore. The key, she said, was not to feel compelled to write all the time. In her research, she found that people who wrote journals once a week were happier, but those who wrote three times a week were not.

Other people find it corny. “Gratitude is not for everyone,” she said. “If you don’t feel sincere and authentic while you’re doing it, it’s not going to work for you.”

Dr. Lyubomirsky admits to some feelings like that herself. One alternative, she said, would be to spend 15 minutes once a week writing a letter of gratitude to someone you know. That might end up being more sincere.

Whatever the method, studies show that you need to keep a journal for a couple of months, at least, to notice an effect. And like working out on the Abdomenizer, you’ve got to keep it up, otherwise the tendency is to fall back to your set point of happiness.

The jury is out on whether I’m happier. I stuck with my journal, but after combating feelings of open-endedness and corniness, I settled for much more specific feelings of gratitude. Being thankful for a tiny act, I found, was far more satisfying because it felt more immediate and genuine. So I was grateful for the free parking space I found at the train station, for the fruit vendor who finally had some ripe bananas and, the ultimate act of kindness, for what I’ll call the Creamed Onions Episode.

We had invited our neighbor Lisa and her family over for Thanksgiving. In an e-mail message, I had gone over some menu items, and mentioned my favorite side dish. “Ah, creamed onions,” Lisa replied. “Wonderful.”

Over 30 years of cooking Thanksgiving meals, my creamed onions — my mother’s creamed onions, really, since I’d gotten the recipe from her — were met mostly with silence. It has been pointed out to me that some of this response was no doubt because the recipe consists solely of boiled onions and large gobs of cream cheese. But whatever, I was grateful for Lisa’s enthusiasm.

Flushed with this sense of gratitude, I began to wonder what good it did. I had asked Dr. Emmons and others about the potential for narcissism. Can’t being thankful just become an exercise in self-absorption?

“That is a perception that people have,” Dr. Emmons said. But it’s a misperception.

“Sure, there’s obviously some benefits to one’s self,” he added. But being happy “expands the self rather than shrinks it.”

Part of being happy involves engaging in meaningful pursuits, he said. “And many of those are found outside the self. Happy people have commitments to causes outside the self.”

So here, in an effort to be more expansive, I share my mother’s creamed onion recipe with the world:

Peel up a bag or two of yellow onions (not the pearl variety, just regular yellow ones, preferably on the smaller side). Boil them in a pot of water for 20 minutes or so. Drain. Throw in a block or two of cream cheese. Stir as the cream cheese melts. Serve.

Couldn’t be more simple. Like a gratitude journal.

    Let Us Give Thanks. In Writing., NYT, 22.11.2007,






After 88 Years of Rivalry,

the Last as Us and Them


November 22, 2007
The New York Times


UNION CITY, N.J. — For 88 consecutive years, two high school football teams here, Emerson and Union Hill, have done battle on Thanksgiving Day, undeterred by mud, rain, divided family loyalties, two World Wars and the Great Depression.

The rivalry is intense: The coaches zealously guard their game plans and the players are on constant alert for spies.

But today’s so-called Turkey Game signals the end of the tradition. Next fall, the two schools will merge in a new $176 million building. At the final game, both principals expect to sit together at halftime to present a united front, and the players on both teams will be required to wear T-shirts bearing the new school’s name — Union City High School — under their shoulder pads.

The new solidarity is a long step from the simmering hatred that once transcended the football field and divided the city into uptown and downtown. Historically, families who lived north of the Route 495 overpass would go uptown to Union Hill, while those who lived to the south would go downtown to Emerson, though that boundary was shifted in later years to keep the school enrollments roughly equal.

“It’s our Mason-Dixon line,” said Stanley M. Sanger, the superintendent and a 1969 Emerson graduate who never set foot in Union Hill until he became a teacher. “You knew Union Hill was north and Emerson was south, and you respected the boundary. It was the natural state of things.”

Old-timers in town still use a traditional greeting before the game: “Are we having hot turkey or cold turkey?” The loser eats cold (figuratively).

The Turkey Game was first played in 1919, when the high schools served the neighboring towns of West Hoboken and Union Hill, later incorporated to form Union City. Even then, the principals were said to have concerns about the game because they feared the rivalry could turn ugly. That game ended in a tie, with a score of 0-0.

Over the years, the game became so important that the players were often excused from their classes to practice in secret locations. Normally, they share a football field, practicing on opposite ends of the 50 yard line. The winning school was rewarded with a half-day of school on the Monday after the game. In years when it rained before Thanksgiving, school officials could be found shoveling water off the field to dry it out.

“If you don’t win, it’s a long Thanksgiving dinner,” said David Wilcomes, 57, the Union Hill principal and a former football coach and player.

Mr. Wilcomes, whose father also played for Union Hill, said that he stopped answering the phone at home after losing games because his strategies would be endlessly rehashed and second-guessed by various relatives.

Game days attracted as many as 15,000 fans in the 1930s and 1940s. A wooden chariot would roll around the field at halftime, carrying a football king and queen from the defending school who would be booed and pelted with paper when they got to the other side. The chariot disappeared by the early 1970s, though, much like aliens in Roswell, N.M., there were chariot sightings long afterward.

Today’s game will feature two closely matched teams in one of the state’s poorest school districts. Union Hill won last year’s game, while Emerson won the seven games before that. Neither school is seen as a regional powerhouse. Statistically, both have endured cycles of ups and downs, and are neck and neck in the record books: Emerson, 40; Union Hill, 39; 9 ties.

“It’s the game we’ve been waiting for all year,” said Edwin Frias, 19, co-captain of the Emerson team, who learned to play football after immigrating from the Dominican Republic six years ago. “This is the last time they can get even, so we have to stop them.”

The passing of the Turkey Game comes as Thanksgiving football traditions are disappearing in many communities around the country, made less relevant by an earlier football season and competing holiday demands on players and their families, and largely eclipsed by state championships in which games are often held after the holiday, making coaches reluctant to risk injury to their players.

The Union City game is all the more unusual because schools in the same district do not often compete directly against each other. For instance, in Wayne, N.J., two high school football teams, Wayne Valley and Wayne Hills, play in different conferences and will face each other for only the third time ever in a championship game the weekend of Nov. 30 at Giants Stadium.

There is little real difference between Emerson and Union Hill, which are separated by one mile. They each have close to 1,500 students and offer the same schedule, courses and after-school sports. Their test scores and student demographics are comparable. Emerson has an R.O.T.C. program, while Union Hill has a stronger arts program, and they have different career education programs that allow students to pursue interests like fashion (the city was once known for its embroidery factories), child care and hospitality.

Mr. Sanger said that he receives 25 to 40 requests a year from students who want to switch to the rival high school, typically citing a particular academic interest or a family connection. Most requests are granted.

While the athletic coaches are not permitted to recruit players from the rival school, students will often try to get players from the elementary and middle schools to attend their high schools.

William Vanderhorst, 17, a Union Hill cornerback, said that he had wanted a change anyway and that playing for an up-and-coming team like Union Hill was more exciting and offered more opportunities. “Emerson was always the favorite going into games, and I like to be the underdog,” said William, who is also a Mets fan.

The new Union City High School will take up four-and-a-half acres in the center of the city, squeezed between row houses and commercial strips. It will have a football field and bleachers built on the roof so that players will no longer have to share the facilities at José Martí Middle School. The district, which spends $130,000 annually on football, also plans to expand the program and combine the two coaching staffs.

This fall, the district formed a Thanksgiving Day committee to plan festivities for the final game, which includes an alumni breakfast before the game and commemorative tickets with photos of the 1919 Union Hill and Emerson teams. The district has spent $2,000 on newspaper ads to invite alumni from around the state to the game, and is installing additional bleachers to accommodate an expected turnout of more than 4,000. The game program will raise money for the new school’s scholarship fund.

But the past will not be forgotten. The game trophy, a 50-pound hunk of brass that has been passed back and forth over the years, will have a cherished place in the new school. Its base is meticulously engraved with scores from every game, with dates running through 2042.

A student staggered under the weight of the trophy last week as he carried it into Mr. Wilcomes’s office, where photos of past Turkey Games cover the back wall.

“You drop that, and you’ll never go to college,” the principal told him.

    After 88 Years of Rivalry, the Last as Us and Them, NYT, 22.11.2007,






Retailers Focus More

on Thanksgiving Day


November 22, 2007
Filed at 9:20 a.m. ET
The New York Times


NEW YORK (AP) -- The nation's retailers want shoppers to spend less time eating turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving and more time shopping -- whether it's online or on land.

For the second year in a row, CompUSA Inc. and BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. are opening their doors on Thanksgiving. The exception are stores in Massachusetts where local laws preclude holiday hours. CompUSA also added an extra incentive for consumers this year by providing pumpkin pie for those in line.

Iconic toy store FAO Schwarz -- with locations in New York, Chicago and Las Vegas -- is set to open its doors on the holiday as well.

In the past, holiday shopping on Thanksgiving Day was limited to discount stores like Kmart and Wal-Mart, as well as grocery retailers and 24-hour convenience stores like 7-Eleven Inc. Kmart, operated by Sears Holdings Corp., is taking it one step further, offering for the first time Thanksgiving Day specials on TVs to GPS systems.

''Some people just can't wait until Friday,'' said Kirsten Whipple, a Sears spokeswoman. ''Thanksgiving dinner is done and they have moved on.'' Kmart's special Thanksgiving deals include an Olevia 32-inch LCD HDTV for $419.99 and a Magellan GPS system for $129.99.

Ellen Davis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, said the Thanksgiving openings may be a way of generating early enthusiasm ahead of a holiday season that's widely expected to be sluggish. Still, she said, no matter how stiff the competition is, for those new in the game, opening on Thanksgiving is still considered a tough decision when weighing employee time off and other factors.

''I think at this point Thanksgiving is still very revered in the retail industry,'' Davis said. ''A lot of retailers just don't want to touch Thursday.''

Web shopping is a different matter. More retailers are pushing shoppers to buy online on Thanksgiving, instead of just researching deals for Black Friday, named because it was traditionally when stores became profitable.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which last year offered one or two online specials on Thanksgiving, is offering specials on 20 to 30 products online. CompUSA.com is featuring one-day, online-only sales on Thanksgiving -- on products including computers, LCD flat-panel TVs and portable DVD players -- and free shipping on certain items.

Amazon.com Inc. held a poll to allow visitors to vote for items they want to see drastically discounted beginning Thursday. The Web site also is offering shipping incentives and other deals spanning the weekend.

Toys ''R'' Us' site and eToys.com are both featuring a slew of online specials just for Thanksgiving. Toysrus.com is featuring up to 65 percent savings on everything from Matchbox cars to Spider-Man 3 interactive figures, while eToys.com is offering up to 60 percent off on select items.

    Retailers Focus More on Thanksgiving Day, NYT, 22.11.2007,






Plymouth Journal

If Not First in Time,

First in the Country’s Heart


November 22, 2007
The New York Times


PLYMOUTH, Mass., Nov. 20 — This year, as Jamestown, Va., splashily celebrated the 400th anniversary of its founding as the nation’s first permanent English settlement, the home of Plymouth Rock found itself on the defensive.

Virginians have relished trumpeting that Jamestown came first, even vowing to get it “out from under Plymouth Rock.”

Their strategy has worked, to an extent: Jamestown’s tourism figures rivaled Plymouth’s this year, and even Queen Elizabeth II paid a visit. In a speech near Jamestown on Tuesday, President Bush challenged the popular notion that Plymouth was home to the first Thanksgiving.

“The good folks here say that the founders of Berkeley held their celebration before the Pilgrims had even left port,” Mr. Bush said, referring to a plantation in Virginia where settlers arrived in 1619. “As you can imagine, this version of events is not very popular up north.”

In response to such barbs, the people of Plymouth have gone to greater lengths than usual to prove it is “America’s Hometown,” as its marketing brochures announce.

“There’s no question Jamestown was first,” said Peggy Baker, director of the Pilgrim Hall Museum, home to Myles Standish’s sword and other Pilgrim artifacts. “But when it comes to issues of historical significance, we don’t just talk about first; we talk about what speaks to people’s emotions. Plymouth is the settlement that has spoken to the hearts and souls of Americans over centuries.”

Unlike the Jamestown settlers, who were mostly men seeking investment opportunities and planning to return home, the Pilgrims who came to Plymouth 13 years later were families hoping to start anew, Ms. Baker said.

Ann Lainhart, historian general of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants — which still gets some 1,400 new applications a year — added: “Plymouth just makes more sense to more people. They can relate to it more.”

Still, the rock’s importance is in doubt, a point conveyed to visitors on a small sign a few steps away. The Mayflower Pilgrims never mentioned the rock in their writings. The first to call it sacred was a 95-year-old church elder who decried plans to build a wharf over the rock in 1741 — more than 120 years after the Pilgrims landed — claiming his father had identified it as the Pilgrims’ landing spot.

That does not stop a million people from visiting the rock each year, nor will it stop Plymouth from making big plans for its own 400th anniversary in 2020. To start, the State of Massachusetts will soon renovate the Roman Doric portico built around Plymouth Rock in 1920, which has long been crumbling and rusting.

Tiles fall so often that netting has been hung under the structure’s ceiling to catch them. Combined with the litter that accumulates at the rock’s base — on Tuesday, that included cigarette butts and crumpled work sheets tossed aside by students on a field trip — the portico’s condition has rankled some in this town of 58,000.

“It’s been a disgraceful mess for a number of years,” Ms. Baker said. “It ought to be spick-and-span, since it’s the geographic marker of where something very significant started.”

In addition to the portico repairs, Pilgrim Hall Museum, which gets only 25,000 visitors a year, will close for the winter to get $3.7 million worth of renovations that will help “convey the inherent drama in the Pilgrim story,” according to its Web site. And Plymouth recently hired a consultant who recommended $20 million worth of improvements, many aimed at luring visitors up the hill from the waterfront to other historic attractions.

The consultant, Dennis Carlone of Cambridge, suggested a nightly theater presentation of a “historically correct ‘Story of the Pilgrims,’” a port for small cruise ships and other marketing strategies.

“There’s a theory out there that one out of 10 Americans is related to the Pilgrims,” Mr. Carlone said. “Even if they found all the Brewsters in the country and sent them a letter that said, ‘Come back home,’ that would be pretty powerful.”

Mark Sylvia, the town manager, said Plymouth was not seeking a makeover to compete with Jamestown.

“It’s been free media and free exposure for us,” Mr. Sylvia said of the hoopla in Virginia. “We are comfortable with the fact that the national Thanksgiving holiday is reflective of what happened in Plymouth, and we just want to keep promoting that.”

Downtown Plymouth was fairly empty two days before Thanksgiving, but by the harbor, a steady stream of visitors approached the rock in an icy drizzle, snapping photos and peering for a dutiful moment or two before trudging off.

“What do you think?” one asked his companion.

“I’ve seen enough,” came the response.

The rock was once broken in half by townspeople trying to move it (the pieces were later cemented together). And souvenir seekers have swiped chunks over the centuries, historians say, reducing it to a third of its 1620 size.

Daniel Ramey, visiting from Seattle, said he was shocked to learn from the nearby sign that the rock was not necessarily where the Pilgrims first set foot.

“I totally thought it was what they tied the boat to and stepped on,” he said. “Seeing the real story told more in textbooks would be awesome.”

Like countless visitors before him, Mr. Ramey also found the rock surprisingly small; he had expected something more like Prudential Financial’s logo, he said.

That, however, is modeled on the Rock of Gibraltar.

    If Not First in Time, First in the Country’s Heart, NYT, 22.11.2007,






Op-Ed Contributor

Baghdad Thanksgiving, 2003


November 22, 2007
The New York Times


I HAVE always hated Thanksgiving. Christmas, now there was a holiday: food, presents, elves and angels, colored lights. Thanksgiving was clunky and secular, devoid of mystery or ritual yet still reeking of guilt: you didn’t get any presents, but you were supposed to be grateful for something.

But in Iraq four years ago, Thanksgiving was all I could think about. I was in Baghdad as a journalist, spending a working honeymoon with my brand-new husband, and homesick. So when an American friend asked me to help her cook the turkey she had imported from Jordan, I set out for Souk al-Ajanib, the foreigners’ market, to hunt for sage.

“I’m looking for a green leaf,” I labored, in awkward Arabic. “It’s like oregano, but it’s not oregano. You cook with it. It’s good. Like a spice.”

The greengrocers at Souk al-Ajanib knew me. They knew I was an ajnabiyye, a foreigner, an American. They knew my husband was Lebanese, a Shiite like most of them, and that I always came there asking for fruits and vegetables that didn’t exist. Amused, the shopkeeper asked what I wanted this alleged green leaf for. For Ali Sheesh, I told him.

Turkey is usually called deek habash in Arabic, but in Iraqi Arabic, everybody calls it “Ali Sheesh.” And whenever anybody said it, Iraqis would laugh hysterically — especially if you were an ajnabiyye speaking baby Arabic with a ridiculous Lebanese accent. When I explained that Americans had a very important holiday when we ate Ali Sheesh and gave thanks, they laughed even harder.

In the fall of 2003, America was many different things to Iraqis — a savior, a tyrant, above all an idea — but not necessarily an enemy. An American could walk down the street and stop at a sidewalk stand and order hot tea in a glass. You could go to Iraqi cafes and talk to students, and you could still tell people — especially in Christian or Shiite neighborhoods — that you were American.

The Iraqis could spend time with us without having to worry that they would be killed for it. They could satisfy their curiosity about our culture, with its unfathomable holidays, and we could learn about theirs. And while most of them were too smart to say it in public, a lot of Iraqis were happy — you could perhaps even call it grateful — that the United States had gotten rid of Saddam Hussein.

Ramadan had just ended, and Muslim Iraqis celebrated Id al-Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast, with dolma, the majestic medley of stuffed vegetables, or a kharouf, a whole roasted sheep or goat, or a thousand other good things. Thanksgiving was Id al-Amreeki, the American Id, I joked to my friend, and the whole roasted turkey would be our kharouf.

At my friend’s house, a mansion with an army of Iraqi cooks, gardeners and security guards, the Iraqi staff gathered in the kitchen to watch the ajanib cook Ali Sheesh. All men, they lounged against the counter, chain-smoking.

“You will never cook Ali Sheesh in time,” said the tallest, with amused condescension. “You must cut him up. Otherwise he will not cook before midnight!”

His friends nodded, laughing. They offered other instructions: We should sauté Ali Sheesh first; we should season him with sabaa baharat, seven spices, and layer him in a large pan; we should boil him and add rice. We had no idea what we were doing: we would poison the guests!

Finally my friend had had enough of their mockery. “How do you know how to cook a turkey?” she demanded.

The ringleader drew himself up, looking down at us, offended. “I have seen it,” he said, with finality, “on ‘Mr. Bean’!”

That night, President Bush flew to the air base at Baghdad International Airport. We saw pictures of him later, serving Thanksgiving dinner to American soldiers, posing like a waiter with a great big Ali Sheesh on a tray. He never left the base. “You are defeating the terrorists here in Iraq,” he told the troops, “so we don’t have to face them in our own country.” An Iraqi friend once told me it was that line about fighting in Iraq to make America safer that turned his adoration of Mr. Bush into hatred.

This year, I’m spending Thanksgiving in the United States for the first time in five years. But you always want what you can’t have: In 2003, I missed Chicago, and home, and my grandmother’s apple-sage stuffing. This Thanksgiving, I miss Baghdad and that brief moment, now gone forever, when Iraqis and Americans could trade cooking tips on the American Id, when our dangers and our safety were the same.

Annia Ciezadlo is writing a book about food and war in the Middle East.

    Baghdad Thanksgiving, 2003, NYT, 22.11.2007,






In Thanksgiving Speech,

Bush Urges Americans

to Give Back


November 20, 2007
The New York Times


CHARLES CITY, Va., Nov. 19 — In a reflective mood as he looks toward his final year in office, President Bush delivered his first official Thanksgiving speech Monday, urging Americans to “show their thanks by giving back” and to remember that “our nation’s greatest strength is the decency and compassion of our people.”

For seven years, Mr. Bush has commemorated Thanksgiving with the presidential tradition of pardoning a turkey, a 60-year tradition that he planned to continue Tuesday in the Rose Garden. But this year, the White House hoped to show a more contemplative side of Mr. Bush, who, his aides say, has been struck by the goodness of the many ordinary Americans he meets during his travels.

So Monday, the president visited a food bank in Richmond, Va., and then traveled here, to Berkeley Plantation on the banks of the James River. It claims to be the home of the nation’s “first official Thanksgiving,” two years before the Pilgrims’ harvest celebration in Massachusetts.

On Dec. 4, 1619, a band of English settlers arrived at the plantation and, upon reviewing orders that the day of their arrival should be “yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God,” dropped to their knees in prayer.

After recounting the Berkeley story, Mr. Bush ticked off the reasons Americans had to be thankful, including “farmers and ranchers who provide us with abundant food,” “entrepreneurs who create new jobs” and “devoted teachers who prepare our children for the opportunities of tomorrow.” He also spoke about the times that “America has fallen short” of its ideals, noting that “for many years, slaves were held against their will here at Berkeley and other plantations — and their bondage is a shameful chapter in our nation’s history.”

Mr. Bush went on to praise “Americans who serve a cause larger than themselves,” not only the military but also people like Liviu Librescu, the Virginia Tech professor who died this spring blocking a gunman from entering his classroom, and Jeremy Hernandez, who broke open the back door of a school bus to lead children to safety in August when the Minneapolis bridge they were traveling on collapsed.

It was a call to action, in a sense, from a president whose first instinct after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was to ask the public for “continued participation and confidence in the American economy,” a request that has been widely interpreted as advice to go shopping.

By contrast, Mr. Bush on Monday asked Americans to consider the “many ways to spread hope this holiday: volunteer in a shelter, mentor a child, help an elderly neighbor, say thanks to one who wears the nation’s uniform.”

    In Thanksgiving Speech, Bush Urges Americans to Give Back, NYT, 20.11.2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/20/washington/20bush.html






Given a Reprieve,

Giant Balloons Fly Low

Over a Soggy Macy’s Parade


November 24, 2006
The New York Times


Super Grover’s nose nearly grazed the asphalt on Broadway. Garfield got caught in a gust of damp wind on Columbus Circle. And Dora the Explorer’s left foot rested uncomfortably on the head of a 43-year-old man from Staten Island.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade made its 80th trip toward Herald Square yesterday in a soggy procession of 9 marching bands, 33 floats, 35 medium-size balloons, 800 clowns and 1,200 cheerleaders and dancers — but all eyes were on the 13 giant balloons. The helium-filled characters were granted a narrow reprieve when the wind proved to be less forceful than forecasters had predicted, but they had to be flown much lower than usual.

The parade occurred under ominous skies and watchful scrutiny from New York City officials, who were determined to avoid a recurrence of the accidents that have marred the parades in recent years, all involving giant balloons colliding with lampposts or street poles.

In 1993, Sonic the Hedgehog broke an off-duty police captain’s shoulder; in 1997, the Cat in the Hat left a woman in a coma for three weeks; and last year, an M & M balloon injured a woman in a wheelchair and her younger sister.

The sisters, Mary and Susan Chamberlain of Albany, who recovered quickly, were back at the parade this year, with seats in a V.I.P. grandstand and a brief visit from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who thanked them for their patience and understanding.

The spectacle delighted parade watchers, some standing in rows five deep, under umbrellas, blankets and scaffolds.

Along Central Park West, three pairs of Bronx sisters — Lisa and Julitza Balbuca, 11 and 8; Vanessa and Rebecca Ciprian, 12-year-old twins; and Samantha Rodríguez and Korina Concepción, 13 and 10 — squealed in delight when their favorite teenage stars, the singer Chris Brown and the television actress Miley Cyrus, appeared in the procession. (“My toes are freezing,” Rebecca confessed.)

The city, following the recommendations of a five-member task force appointed by the mayor, took new steps to ensure safety.

Workers spent the night before the parade turning the arms of lampposts and traffic-signal poles inward — and in some cases removing entire streetlights — to ensure that the parade path would be free of obstructions. Anemometers were erected atop poles at seven intersections along the route, sending minute-by-minute measurements of wind speed and direction to workers carrying laptop computers. Those workers consulted with police officers; the officers then directed the flight pilot and captain navigating each big balloon.

The decision to allow the 13 balloons to take off was made by top officials from the city and from Macy’s, who huddled in the auditorium of the New-York Historical Society with engineers and meteorologists before the parade started, at 9 a.m., at Central Park West and 77th Street.

Guidelines adopted in 1998 prohibit the giant balloons from flying in sustained winds of more than 23 miles per hour or gusts of more than 34 m.p.h. Late Wednesday, the National Weather Service warned that a storm crawling up the East Coast could bring winds and gusts above those limits. But in the minutes before the parade, the anemometers were recording sustained speeds of only 6 m.p.h. and gusts of 18 m.p.h.

Instead of flying the large balloons within the specified range of 18 to 55 feet — as measured from the midpoint of each balloon to the ground — officials decided to fly all of them at 17 feet.

Even so, top city officials watched nervously as the parade began. At the slightest sign of turbulence, they said, the city stood ready to order the balloons pulled off the route and deflated.

That did not happen. The first giant balloon was in the form of a hot-air balloon, marking the 80th parade and hoisting Robin B. Hall, the parade director since 2001, in a basket. (Mr. Hall, who weighs 170 pounds, said he was not afraid because he had taken part in two trial runs.) The other balloons, Flying Ace Snoopy through Garfield, were interspersed through the parade. Santa Claus, as always, brought up the rear on a float.

At Broadway and 58th Street, Humpty Dumpty, one of the smaller balloons, got caught in a crosswind and was blown west into a somersault. “That one’s out of control,” Shannon Martin, 38, of Jacksonville, Fla., told her family, jokingly. “It’s going to get us!”

Under a light pole near Times Square, Mary Beth Stabinski, 47, her daughter, Danielle, 17, and her daughter’s friend, Matt Pegler, 18, wore red hard hats with “Macy’s Parade 2006” painted in white letters.

Ms. Stabinski, of Rotterdam, N.Y., said she knew she was standing close to the site of last year’s accident. “This is the year of the hard hat,” she said. “We’re brave. We’re true, die-hard Macy’s fans.”

The weather posed challenges for the roughly 10,000 volunteers in the parade. When the Garfield balloon got caught in the gust, one balloon handler slipped and fell.

Joe Scibilia, 43, of Staten Island, helped keep Dora the Explorer aloft. “I had to balance her foot on my head,” he said. “That was the hard part. We didn’t bring it up high. Her foot was practically to the ground.”

Spectators improvised ways to cope with the rain.

J. D. Ashwood, 34, his wife, Ginny, 31, were covered in heavy-duty rain suits from Mr. Ashwood’s job at a country club in New Canaan, Conn. With them was their son, James, 7. They lent their giant golf umbrella to a family of strangers: Robert Bailey, 44, of Marietta, Ga., and his son and daughter. Cindy Reeves, 52, and Bruce Scott, 51, of Houlton, Me., bought thin yellow ponchos for $4 apiece from the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square.

The parade began in 1924. It was not held from 1942 to 1944, during World War II. In 1958, the balloons were filled with air and carried on trucks because of a helium shortage. In 1971, gale-force winds and rain kept the balloons from being inflated.

“Every year they talk about the wind and canceling the balloons,” said William Adduci, 57, a retired business executive from Cincinnati who has been a balloon handler for eight years. “But every year they keep them.”

A spectator, Ann Irby, 61, of Moon Lake, Miss., described the spirit of the day like this: “I’m excited and thrilled — and I’m tired and cold.”


Kate Hammer and Matthew Sweeney

contributed reporting.

    Given a Reprieve, Giant Balloons Fly Low Over a Soggy Macy’s Parade,
    NYT, 24.11.2006,






Stolen Dinner Costs Mother

Thanksgiving Behind Bars


November 24, 2006
The New York Times


VALPARAISO, Ind., Nov. 23 — For most people, Thanksgiving is a day to be surrounded by those dearest to them. For Donna Shelby that would have included fawning over her daughter, who was 6 months old on Thursday.

Eventually, Ms. Shelby, 19, did get there. But it was early evening before she received her walking papers and was set free from the Porter County Jail, where she spent some of the day scrubbing dishes for a crowd of inmates.

That time with thieves, thugs and addicts instead of her mother, child, boyfriend and three younger sisters was her punishment for skipping out of a Valparaiso restaurant without paying her bill last summer.

“The bill? I think it was like $18.96,” Ms. Shelby said in a brief jailhouse interview. “My cousin, she ate the steak and eggs. I got a salad. And it wasn’t even that good.”

Still, it was a lesson learned, she said.

“If I had to do it again, I’d either never walk into that restaurant or I’d just pay the bill,” she said. “But I didn’t have the money. And when my family showed up at the restaurant to get me, they paid the bill. So I was like, what am I getting arrested for? But they said I left. I did.”

Wanting a quick meal, Ms. Shelby said, she and her 15-year-old cousin had stopped at the restaurant, the Round the Clock, a popular spot in this pocket of northwest Indiana, on Aug. 12. After cleaning their plates, the pair simply got up and left. They made it to the parking lot.

“Our waitress chased her down,” said the restaurant manager, Milan Radinovich. “We called the cops, and the prosecutors and judge took it from there.”

This month, rather than simply sentence Ms. Shelby to six months of probation, which is not unusual for a minor offense, Judge David Chidester of Porter County Court went a step further. Harking back to the old idea that if a customer cannot pay his tab, he can work it off washing dishes, Judge Chidester gave Ms. Shelby a choice: work in the restaurant’s kitchen until the debt was paid, or spend a day in the lockup.

“We said no,” Mr. Radinovich said. “We wanted nothing to do with her. Get out. Stay out.”

So off to the county jail it was for Ms. Shelby, who had to leave the baby at home for a full day of washing dishes for inmates spending Thanksgiving behind bars.

After being dropped off at the jail promptly at 9 a.m. by her mother, who “was not very happy,” Ms. Shelby said, she donned the dark red jail garb and headed to the kitchen, where the turkey was being prepared.

But maybe 30 minutes into her shift, Ms. Shelby took ill, and was told by jail officials to sit down and rest. Before long, she was consulting with the medical staff, who thought she had perhaps come down with the flu, according to Ms. Shelby and a jail guard who escorted her.

The dishwashing was over, but the sentence was not. Unable to reach the judge, jail supervisors told Ms. Shelby they had little choice but to keep her in a cell until her scheduled release at 6 p.m.

“Do I think I deserve this?” she said. “I didn’t pay. We ditched. But they told me I wouldn’t have to wear the jail clothes, and look at me. They told me I would wash dishes, and I’m in a cell, locked up.”

To make matters worse, Ms. Shelby said, the publicity surrounding her sentence cost her a job. A high school dropout, Ms. Shelby completed a course to become a certified nursing assistant and was hired at a rehabilitation center in the weeks after her arrest.

“But all the news, they just fired me,” Ms. Shelby said. “I had made enough to pay back my family the $325 bail they put up for me to get out. But I have no job now. Looking for work.”

Sgt. Michael Grennes of the Valparaiso Police Department said the punishment was just.

“They decided to get up and leave,” he said, noting that Ms. Shelby’s 15-year-old cousin, who is pregnant, was charged as a juvenile in the case. “The judge decided to do something unusual here, to teach a lesson. Perhaps it’s an important lesson learned.”

Ms. Shelby said she understood her family’s anger and embarrassment, and even the punishment the judge gave her — if only in part. But Thursday was Thanksgiving.

“My baby’s at home, and I want to get back to her,” she said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to. I can give thanks.”

    Stolen Dinner Costs Mother Thanksgiving Behind Bars,
    NYT, 24.11.2006,






Bush wishes military members

happy Thanksgiving


Thu Nov 23, 2006
3:24 PM ET


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush, who is spending Thanksgiving Day at the Camp David presidential retreat, telephoned 10 members of the U.S. military on Thursday to wish them a happy holiday.

A White House spokesman said Bush placed the calls at about 8 a.m. to two members each serving in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard to wish them a happy Thanksgiving and to thank them for their service.

Some of those with whom Bush spoke are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and others recently returned from overseas duty, the White House said.

    Bush wishes military members happy Thanksgiving, R, 23.11.2006, http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=domesticNews&storyID=2006-11-23T202337Z_01_N23275086_RTRUKOC_0_US-BUSH-THANKSGIVING.xml&WTmodLoc=Home-C5-domesticNews-2






Op-Ed Contributor

Black Friday Reverie


November 23, 2006
The New York Times


Thanksgiving was my birthday this year
and I find two holidays in one is not
efficient. In fact, barely anything gets
done; neither the bird nor the passage
of the year is digested. Luckily, Black
Friday offers new pleasures while remaining
a stolen day; a day after. There is shopping,
the streets, or the hilarious malls, but I will
stay home with the leftovers and use

the time to rethink, turkey leg in hand like
a king. Pumpkin pie, solid soup of
pummeled end-of-summer. Chestnuts and
sausage chunks from stuffing plucked
regally, like an ape leisurely denuding
a blueberry bush of its fruit. Maybe I mean
Cleopatra's teeth accepting red grapes from
a solicitous lunk of nubility. Same image.
The hand feeds, the mouth gets fed. You

too? Mother ate turkey in the maternity?
Imagine, you not-born-in-late-Novembers,
if every few years a bird adjoined your
candles. Think, too, who comes to eat
that bird. Those whose faces look like
yours; those nearly-yous and knew you
whens; those have your same ill eases.
How's the sciatica? Fine, how's yours?
The world is old. Cleopatra might

have liked Black Friday. It's as engaging
as a barge with a fast gold sofa. She also
might have liked aging. At least preferred
it to the asp. Yellow leaf-patterned
sunlight dazzles the wall with its dapple.
It's all happening now, as I write. This is
journalism. No part of the memoir
is untrue. Though I probably will
go to the mall, if everyone else goes.


Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author,

most recently, of “Funny.”

    Black Friday Reverie, NYT, 23.11.2006,






Op-Ed Contributor

Rocks of Ages


November 23, 2006


Nantucket, Mass.

LAST week, I went to see Bob Dylan at the Nassau Coliseum. It turned out to be a terrific rock ’n’ roll show. I must admit, however, to being somewhat distracted by how Mr. Dylan and his band were dressed. They wore hats and rather elegant suits, and it was in the midst of “Like a Rolling Stone,” as Dylan stood before the keyboard howling out the refrain, that I had what I’ll call a Thanksgiving epiphany.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve spent the past four years researching the history of Plymouth Colony, but at that moment Mr. Dylan and his band reminded me of the Pilgrims. Not the actual Pilgrims, but the cardboard caricatures we come to know in elementary school, dressed in dark suits, with buckles on their hats and shoes. It was then that I remembered that almost precisely 31 years before, in 1975, Bob Dylan launched his legendary Rolling Thunder Revue in, of all places, Plymouth, Mass.

No one living has a better appreciation for the sneaky and unnerving power of American myth than Bob Dylan. In the fall of 1975, the United States was gripped by what the playwright Sam Shepard, who had been hired to work on a film about the tour, called “Bicentennial madness.” With 1976 fast approaching, America was obsessed as never before with its origins, and as Mr. Dylan knew perfectly well, there was no better place to launch his tour than the mythic landing ground of the Pilgrims.

Mr. Shepard did not end up contributing much to the film, but he did publish a log chronicling the tour’s first six weeks. Included in the book is a bizarre photo showing Mr. Dylan and several fellow musicians peering over the side of the Mayflower II, a reproduction of a 17th-century vessel berthed at Plimoth Plantation. A stiff breeze is blowing, and two of the party are desperately hanging on to the brims of their cowboy hats as the front man of the Byrds, Roger McGuinn, speaks on a huge, ’70s-style portable phone.

But perhaps the weirdest and wackiest portion of Mr. Shepard’s log describes how Mr. Dylan and his pals recreated the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. As the poet Allen Ginsberg sat beside the iron fence that surrounds the rock, chanting and chiming his set of Tibetan bells, Mr. Dylan haphazardly piloted a dinghy to the Plymouth shore.

Last week at the Nassau Coliseum it occurred to me that Bob Dylan is a lot like Plymouth Rock. Just as he emerged full-blown onto the New York folk scene of the 1960s, claiming a shadowy and, it turned out, apocryphal past, so did Plymouth Rock suddenly come to the attention of the American people in a manner that smacks of dubious self-invention.

There is no reference to a rock in any of the Pilgrims’ accounts of their arrival in Plymouth Harbor. Not until more than a century later did 95-year-old Thomas Faunce claim that his father, who did not arrive in Plymouth until three years after the Pilgrims, told him that the Mayflower passengers first stepped onto an undistinguished boulder at the edge of Plymouth Harbor. Thus was born the legend of Plymouth Rock.

Before the American Revolution, a group of patriots known as the Sons of Liberty seized upon the rock, literally, as a symbol of the unyielding righteousness of their cause. They decided to move the rock from its original location at the edge of the harbor to the center of town. Unfortunately, as the Sons of Liberty extracted the rock from the sandy muck of the harbor, it broke in half. Leaving the presumably Loyalist half behind, they carted their half of the rock to the town square.

Decades later, the rock was moved to a different part of town, only to be dropped once again and broken in half. All this time, souvenir hunters had been picking away at it. By the time the two quarters were reunited with the piece that remained at the edge of the harbor, around the time of the Civil War, the total size of the rock had been diminished by approximately half.

Today, the ornate granite edifice that enshrines what’s left of Plymouth Rock serves only to mock what is now a virtual pebble with a cemented seam running across it. Mount Rushmore, it isn’t. Indeed, Plymouth Rock has been deservedly called the biggest letdown in tourism.

And yet the rock is, as far as I’m concerned, a wonderful metaphor for what we Americans do to our history. We slice it, we dice it, we try to put it back together again, but in the end it is just there: a sadly diminished thing that, despite all the abuse we have heaped upon it, retains an enduring connection to a past we can never really hope to recapture.

Bob Dylan is a legend who has received his own share of knocks — whether it be from acoustic purists at the Newport Folk Festival or from his own motorcycle. Last week at the Nassau Coliseum, he proved that no matter what the passage of time and the constant touring have done to his vocal cords, he can still deliver songs like “Highway 61 Revisited” and “All Along the Watchtower” with a feral abandon that has grown only more powerful with the years.

And so, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am going to give thanks not only for turkey, family and football. I am going to pay homage to the staying power of two American icons, Bob Dylan and Plymouth Rock.


Nathaniel Philbrick is the author of

“Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War”

and “In the Heart of the Sea:

The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.”

    Rocks of Ages, NYT, 23.11.2006,






Macy’s Parade

Gets Tighter Weather Control

Than Ever


November 23, 2006
The New York Times


Seven pole-mounted anemometers will transmit minute-by-minute wind measurements to handheld computers. Police and emergency management officials will relay the data to balloon navigators. Aerodynamics engineers and a liaison from the National Weather Service will advise the incident commander, a three-star police chief.

These are among the new measures in place as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade marches for the 80th time today, amid preparations worthy of a large-scale military operation.

But the precautions may not be enough to keep the giant balloons aloft.

A strong northeaster climbed up the East Coast yesterday, driving a wall of rain and wind before it, with gusts expected at just about the speeds that parade organizers fear the most. As bleak as the weather are the memories: of 1997, when a Cat in the Hat balloon crashed into a lamppost, injuring four people and leaving one of them in a coma, and last year, when an M & M balloon sent the head of a street lamp crashing onto a woman in a wheelchair and her 11-year-old sister.

The poor weather and heightened oversight could ground some or all of the 13 big balloons — 1 fewer than last year — that are set to fly today, starting at 9 a.m. In the best case, they could be flown so low as to practically be floats. In the worst case, as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg warned, the hapless helium-filled creatures could be pulled onto side streets and summarily deflated.

“First and foremost, we will make sure that we worry about safety before anything else,” Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said, “We’re very well prepared to guard against any eventuality, as far as the balloons are concerned.”

The mayor said that the parade has attractions beyond the giant balloons, including 35 other balloons and a float carrying Barry Manilow, the singer.

As the 13 giant balloons — including a new Pikachu and Flying Ace Snoopy, past parade favorites that have been redesigned for this year — were inflated yesterday afternoon and evening around the American Museum of Natural History, some parade volunteers admitted to anxiety.

“If we can’t fly the balloons, sure we’ll be disappointed,” said Kathryn Kramer, 44, a Macy’s employee from Yardley, Pa., who will be the pilot for Flying Ace Snoopy.

Ms. Kramer, who has handled balloons in every parade since 1985, described backup plans that could seem anticlimactic to spectators expecting towering cartoon figures: Flight teams would simply “march and wave” to the crowds.

Guidelines adopted in 1998 prohibit the giant balloons from being flown if sustained winds exceed 23 miles per hour or if gusts exceed 34 m.p.h. Michael E. Wyllie, the meteorologist in charge of the weather service’s forecasting office in Upton, N.Y., projected sustained winds of 20 to 25 m.p.h. and gusts of 30 to 35 m.p.h. this morning.

“We’re probably going to be looking at limiting some of the larger balloons, and possibly not allowing them to be flown at all,” said Mr. Wyllie, who has talked with the city about the parade.

A Macy’s spokeswoman, Elina Kazan, acknowledged that the outlook was grim.

“The forecast is quite disappointing,” she said yesterday, “but we are still hopeful and we are still inflating our balloons, because the call to fly or not fly the balloons will not be made until the morning.”

In the past, the decision to fly the balloons was made just before the 9 a.m. start of the parade, based on wind measurements taken at a weather station in Central Park. Along the parade route, workers used handheld anemometers — instruments that measure wind speed and direction — to make decisions about whether to fly the balloons at lower heights because of sudden gusts.

The wind measurements this year will be much more systematic. Anemometers will be mounted on poles along Central Park West at 77th, 72nd and 59th Streets and along Broadway at 51st, 46th, 42nd and 34th Streets. Each instrument will be monitored by a police officer and a representative of the Office of Emergency Management using a portable computer.

As each of the 13 big balloons approaches the intersections, the police officer will talk with the pilot who walks ahead of the balloon, directing a flight team of 12 to 14 members and the 50 to 70 handlers who carry the balloon’s tethers. The officer will alert the pilot about wind conditions, which can vary even from block to block, based on the height and layout of surrounding buildings. As in past years, a police officer will also march with each balloon.

After the 1997 accident, a 12-member panel appointed by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani recommended restrictions on the operation and size of the balloons, improved training of the volunteer balloon crews and new maximum wind speeds.

Two months ago, a five-member task force appointed by Mr. Bloomberg to review last year’s accident found that the M & M balloon was traveling in an area significantly narrower than Macy’s guidelines allowed before its ropes got caught on a streetlight near Times Square.

The flight passageway or “envelope” — the width of the route free of obstructions — was supposed to be at least 62 feet from curb to curb, according to the report. In fact, however, the passageway as measured just north of the accident was 39 feet, because of obstructions. The streetlight, which did not extend over the curb line, stood just outside this 39-foot passageway.

The task force directed that the calculations for how high the balloons can be flown be based on an assumption of a maximum passageway of 56 feet, instead of 62. Each balloon has its own guidelines for how high it should be flown, but the narrower envelope means that all balloons will be flown slightly lower than in the past.

The task force also recommended that calculations of the envelope take into account obstructions along the route and not simply be measured from curb to curb. It also urged improvements in communication, wind measurements and preparations.

Shannon D. Chandler, 45, a chaperon accompanying three students from Valley, Ala., who are part of the Macy’s Great American Marching Band, a contingent of more than 200 high school musicians from around the country, said yesterday he was nervous about what would happen to the balloons. “We’re worried we won’t get to see them,” he said.

The Police Department’s chief of patrol, Chief Nicholas Estavillo, a 38-year veteran who has overseen police deployment at the parade since 2002, will decide just before 9 a.m. whether to set the balloons aloft. He said he was aware of how disappointed his grandchildren and millions of spectators would be if the balloons were grounded.

“It would distress me to no end, absolutely,” he said last night. “Putting that aside, we have to deal with the reality of the conditions and the concerns about safety.”

The Macy’s parade began in 1924, and the giant balloons made their debut in 1927. The parade was not held from 1942 to 1944.


Diane Cardwell, Kate Hammer and Emily Vasquez contributed reporting.

    Macy’s Parade Gets Tighter Weather Control Than Ever, NYT, 23.11.2006,






Retailers Begin Shopping

on Thanksgiving


November 23, 2006
Filed at 3:08 a.m. ET
The New York Times


NEW YORK (AP) -- A traditional day of feasting with family could turn into a day of early holiday shopping for some, as retailers plan to offer more options -- both online and in stores -- than ever this Thanksgiving.

For the first time, BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. and CompUSA Inc. will open their doors on Thanksgiving, while online retailer Amazon.com is offering special holiday discounts beginning on the big day.

In the past, grocery retailers and 24-hour convenience stores like 7-Eleven Inc. were the only shopping options on Thanksgiving. Holiday gift shoppers turned to the Web, or saved their breath for Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving, which is considered the official kickoff to the shopping season.

''Some retailers are trying to find a way to take advantage of the fact that once dinner is over, many families are looking for some kind of entertainment,'' said Ellen Davis, spokeswoman at National Retail Federation, a trade group.

BJ's will be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., while electronics retailer CompUSA Inc. will be open from 9 p.m. to midnight, where state laws permit stores to be open on the holiday.

''People start kicking off their holiday shopping early,'' said BJ's spokeswoman Stephanie LaCroix, who expects good sales of consumer electronics such as LCD televisions, computers and iPods.

Almost 1,400 Kmart stores, owned by Sears Holdings Corp., will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., offering buy-one-get-one free deals on board games and a Polaroid digital camera for less than $100, among other deals, said spokeswoman Gail Lavielle.

Wal-Mart, whose more than 2,000 24-hour supercenters will be open on the holiday, said it plans to begin advertising eight ''top secret'' Black Friday deals on its Web site beginning on Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, 7-Eleven plans to offer gift cards for Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes, Circuit City Stores Inc., Blockbuster Inc., Borders Group Inc., DVDs, and toys, among other gift items.

As for online opportunities, Sears, Roebuck and Co. will again allow holiday shoppers to pay for Black Friday deals on their Web site on Thanksgiving, such as 20 percent off Kenmore appliances and 50 percent off certain Craftsman-branded tools. Customers can then pick up their purchases when stores open the following the day, or have them shipped, said Lavielle.

Online retailer Amazon.com is also pushing for shoppers to get started a day early by holding an ongoing poll to select one steeply discounted gift item that will be offered in limited supplies beginning on Thanksgiving day, on top of other deals.

The proposed items include a Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 video game system for $100, which is currently the leading favorite of voters, or a Mongoose Domain Dual-Suspension Mountain Bike for $30.

''We're always open on Thanksgiving,'' noted spokesman Craig Berman.

''Online retailers are making Thanksgiving a huge priority, because they have no competition from stores,'' said Davis. ''I think we're going to see that trend increasing.''

    Retailers Begin Shopping on Thanksgiving, NYT, 23.11.2006,






Turkey Is Spared

After a Scare From Barney


November 22, 2006
Filed at 2:18 p.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON -- He was going to pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey anyway, but President Bush figured he really owed the bird this time. His dog had just scared the stuffing out of it.

Bush spared the turkey -- named ''Flyer'' in an online vote -- during a Rose Garden ceremony on Wednesday. The backup bird, ''Fryer,'' was also pardoned but nowhere to be seen on this raw day.

The president explained that his Scottish Terrier, Barney, got involved this year. The presidential dog typically gets his exercise by chasing a soccer ball around the Rose Garden.

''He came out a little early, as did Flyer,'' Bush said. ''And instead of chasing the soccer ball, he chased the bird. And it kind of made the turkey nervous. See, the turkey was nervous to begin with. Nobody's told him yet about the pardon I'm about to give him.''

Bush announced that the birds would be sent off to Disneyland in California to be the honorary grand marshals of a Thanksgiving Day Parade, just like their predecessors a year ago.

At one point, Bush moved in for a closer look at Flyer, a well-behaved bird raised in Missouri. He petted the turkey's head and back before inviting a couple dozen Girl Scouts to come up and join him.

''It's a fine looking bird, isn't it?'' Bush said.

The popular pardon ceremony dates to the days of President Harry Truman in 1947.

Yet savoring turkeys, not saving them, is the agenda for millions of people on Thanksgiving Day.

The typical American consumes more than 13 pounds of turkey a year, with a good serving of it coming at Thanksgiving.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urged Bush to send the pardoned turkeys to an animal sanctuary, where ''they will get the exercise and socialization that they need to live longer, happier lives.''

In return, the group offered Bush a feast of Tofu turkey, vegetarian stuffing and a vegan apple pie.

Just back from a trip to Asia, Bush and his wife Laura will spend the holiday at Camp David before another international trip early next week to the Baltics and the Middle East.

The Bushes left the White House early Wednesday afternoon and arrived at the presidential retreat.

The first family's menu for Thanksgiving includes free-range roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, zucchini gratin, whipped maple sweet potatoes, basil chive red potato mash and pumpkin pie.


On The Net:

White House Thanksgiving:


    Turkey Is Spared After a Scare From Barney, NYT, 22.11.2006,






Celebrating July 2

10 Days That Changed History


July 2, 2006
The New York Times


IT'S a badly kept secret among scholars of American history that nothing much really happened on Thursday, July 4, 1776.

Although this date is emblazoned on the Declaration, the Colonies had actually voted for independence two days earlier; the document wasn't signed until a month later. When John Adams predicted that the "great anniversary festival" would be celebrated forever, from one end of the continent to the other, he was talking about July 2.

Indeed, the dates that truly made a difference aren't always the ones we know by heart; frequently, they've languished in dusty oblivion. The 10 days that follow — obscure as some are — changed American history. (In some cases, they are notable for what didn't happen rather than what did.)

This list is quirky rather than comprehensive, and readers may want to continue the parlor game on their own. But while historians may argue endlessly about causes and effects — many even question the idea that any single day can alter the course of human events — these examples show that destiny can turn on a slender pivot, and that history often occurs when nobody is watching.

Anyway, happy Second of July.


JUNE 8, 1610: A Lord's Landfall

Three years after its founding, the Virginia Colony was a failure. A few dozen starving settlers packed some meager possessions and sailed from Jamestown on June 7, headed back toward England. The next morning, to their surprise, they spotted a fleet coming toward them, carrying a new governor, Lord De La Warr, and a year's worth of supplies.

If not for his appearance, Virginia might have gone the way of so many lost colonies. What is now the Southeastern United States could well have ended up in the French or Dutch empires. Tobacco might never have become a cash crop, and the first African slaves would not have arrived in 1619.


OCT. 17, 1777: Victory Along the Hudson

If one date should truly get credit for securing America's independence, it is when the British general John Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga.

The battle's significance was more diplomatic than military: shortly after news reached Paris, the French king decided to enter the war on the American side. "If the French alliance and funding hadn't come through at that moment, it's hard to say how much longer we could have held out," says Stacy Schiff, author of "A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America." The American Revolution might have gone down in history as a brief provincial uprising, and the Declaration of Independence as a nice idea.


JUNE 20, 1790: Jefferson's Dinner Party

On this evening, Thomas Jefferson invited Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to dinner at his rented house on Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan. In the course of the night, Jefferson recalled, they brokered one of the great political deals in American history. Under the terms of the arrangement, the national capital would be situated on the Potomac, and the federal government would agree to take on the enormous war debts of the 13 states.

Had that meal never taken place, New York might still be the nation's capital. But even more important, the primacy of the central government might never have been established, says Ron Chernow, the Hamilton biographer. "The assumption of state debts was the most powerful bonding mechanism of the new Union," he says. "Without it, we would have had a far more decentralized federal system."


APRIL 19, 1802: Mosquitos Win the West

Events that change America don't always occur within our borders. Consider the spring of 1802. Napoleon had sent a formidable army under his brother-in-law, General Charles Leclerc, to quell the rebellion of former slaves in Haiti.

On April 19, Leclerc reported to Napoleon that the rainy season had arrived, and his troops were falling ill. By the end of the year, almost the whole French force, including Leclerc himself, were dead of mosquito-borne yellow fever.

When Napoleon realized his reconquest had failed, he abandoned hopes of a New World empire, and decided to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States.

"Across a huge section of the American heartland, from New Orleans up through Montana, they ought to build statues to Toussaint L'Ouverture and the other heroes of the Haitian Revolution," says Ted Widmer, director of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.


JAN. 12, 1848: An Ill-Advised Speech

His timing couldn't have been worse: With the Mexican War almost won, a freshman congressman rose to deliver a blistering attack on President Polk and his "half-insane" aggressive militarism. Almost from the moment he sat down again, the political career of Representative Abraham Lincoln seemed doomed by the antiwar stand he had taken just when most Americans were preparing their victory celebrations.

Yet that speech saved Lincoln. "It cast him into the political wilderness," says Joshua Wolf Shenk, the author of "Lincoln's Melancholy." This insulated him during the politically treacherous years of the early 1850's — when Americans divided bitterly over slavery — and positioned him to emerge as a national leader on the eve of the Civil War. Lincoln's early faux pas also taught him to be a pragmatist, not just a moralist. "If he had been successful in the 1840's, the Lincoln of history — the Lincoln who saved the Union — would never have existed," Mr. Shenk says.


APRIL 16, 1902: The Movies

Motion pictures seemed destined to become a passing fad. Only a few years after Edison's first crude newsreels were screened — mostly in penny arcades, alongside carnival games and other cheap attractions, the novelty had worn off, and Americans were flocking back to live vaudeville.

Then, in spring 1902, Thomas L. Tally opened his Electric Theater in Los Angeles, a radical new venture devoted to movies and other high-tech devices of the era, like audio recordings.

"Tally was the first person to offer a modern multimedia entertainment experience to the American public," says the film historian Marc Wanamaker. Before long, his successful movie palace produced imitators nationally, which would become known as "nickelodeons." America's love affair with the moving image — from the silver screen to YouTube — would endure after all.


FEB. 15, 1933: The Wobbly Chair

It should have been an easy shot: five rounds at 25 feet. But the gunman, Giuseppe Zangara, an anarchist, lost his balance atop a wobbly chair, and instead of hitting President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, he fatally wounded the mayor of Chicago, who was shaking hands with F.D.R.

Had Roosevelt been assassinated, his conservative Texas running mate, John Nance Garner, would most likely have come to power. "The New Deal, the move toward internationalism — these would never have happened," says Alan Brinkley of Columbia University. "It would have changed the history of the world in the 20th century. I don't think the Kennedy assassination changed things as much as Roosevelt's would have."


MARCH 2, 1955: Almost a Heroine

When a brave young African-American woman was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, local and national civil rights leaders rallied to her cause. Claudette Colvin, 15, seemed poised to become an icon of the struggle against segregation. But then, shortly after her March 2 arrest, she became pregnant. The movement's leaders decided that an unwed teenage mother would not make a suitable symbol, so they pursued a legal case with another volunteer: Rosa Parks.

That switch, says the historian Douglas Brinkley, created a delay that allowed Martin Luther King Jr. to emerge as a leader. He most likely would not have led the bus boycott if it had occurred in the spring instead of the following winter. "He might have ended up as just another Montgomery preacher," Professor Brinkley says.


SEPT. 18, 1957: Revolt of the Nerds

Fed up with their boss, eight lab workers walked off the job on this day in Mountain View, Calif. Their employer, William Shockley, had decided not to continue research into silicon-based semiconductors; frustrated, they decided to undertake the work on their own. The researchers — who would become known as "the traitorous eight" — went on to invent the microprocessor (and to found Intel, among other companies). "Sept. 18 was the birth date of Silicon Valley, of the electronics industry and of the entire digital age," says Mr. Shockley's biographer, Joel Shurkin.


AUG. 20, 1998: Just Missed

With most Americans absorbed by the Monica Lewinsky affair, relatively few paid much attention when the United States fired some 60 cruise missiles at Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Most public debate centered on whether President Clinton had ordered the strike to deflect attention from his domestic troubles.

Although the details of that day remain in dispute, some accounts suggest that the attack may have missed killing Osama bin Laden by as little as an hour. How that would have changed America — and the world — may be revealed, in time, by the history that is still unfolding.

Adam Goodheart is director of the C.V. Starr Center

for the Study of the American Experience

at Washington College.

    10 Days That Changed History, NYT, 2.7.2006,






Children Teach Today's Pilgrims

the All-American Lessons


November 24, 2005
The New York Times


Thanksgiving is always a busy time for Julie Sorokurs.

She and her younger sister, Cathy, help in the kitchen with the apple pie, mixing the flour and remembering, Julie said, to "take turns so everything is fair." Then they work on the day's costumes, assembling Pilgrim hats out of black construction paper.

During dinner, she is happy to entertain questions from guests about the history of one of her favorite holidays, which she has researched on the Internet. "I remember learning that they didn't get along that well when they first met," said 11-year-old Julie of the Pilgrims and the Indians. "And then they just put aside their differences and just had a big feast together."

Julie's parents, Russian immigrants who live in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, say they are proud their daughter has become so fascinated with this most American of traditions. "She has to live here," said her father, Vladimir Sorokurs, 51, a high school social worker who did not know Thanksgiving existed before coming to America in 1988. "She has to adopt everything. She's American."

Every November, Thanksgiving - a celebration of the original immigrant feast - plays out in this city of immigrants as the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians could have hardly fathomed in 1621: a cross-cultural hodgepodge holiday improvised by new American families often inspired and instructed by some of their youngest members. The children of immigrants act as pint-size ambassadors of all things Thanksgiving, urging parents throughout the world to prepare all-American turkey meals that they learned about in school and sharing their incomplete yet innocently sweet knowledge of the holiday's origins.

Olga Espinal, 31, said most of what she learned about the history of Thanksgiving has come from her daughter. Ms. Espinal came to New York seven years ago from Colombia, and today she planned a combination Thanksgiving celebration and birthday party for her daughter, Daniela Rico, who turns 10 tomorrow.

Daniela said helping her mother learn about the holiday was easy. "I read a book about Thanksgiving," said Daniela, who is in the fifth grade and lives with her mother in Howard Beach, Queens. "I told her what I read in the book. I read about what they celebrated on the first Thanksgiving and why. I didn't get to read the whole book, because it was a pretty big book."

Giselle Vasquez, 6, also gave her father a quick Pilgrims-and-Indians history lesson. "My daughter told me that when they came to America, they started to celebrate the first dinner," said Mr. Vasquez, 28, who is Mexican-American and who picked up Giselle at Public School 295 in Brooklyn yesterday.

Sometimes, the children are not so much teachers as they are cheerleaders. Occasionally, they are simply culinary advisers. Maha Attieh, 47, a Jordanian-born Palestinian, takes her children to the supermarket when she goes shopping for Thanksgiving, which she usually celebrates at her home in Midwood, Brooklyn, with a turkey stuffed with rice, chicken cutlets, nuts and raisins.

"They make their own menu," said Mrs. Attieh, who works at the Arab-American Family Support Center in Brooklyn. "What they hear in school, what they hear from friends, they want the same thing. I say, 'As long as it's halal meat, I'll do it.' "

In diverse New York City, an introduction to the holiday is essential. The foreign-born population makes up 36 percent of the city's eight million residents, according to the United States Census Bureau, and many speak a language other than English at home. The lessons that immigrant children teach their parents about Thanksgiving illustrates the larger role these children often play in interpreting American culture for their elders.

"Given that English as a second language classes are pretty hard to come by unless you've got money, it's sort of inevitable that children of recent immigrants who don't speak English are a huge fount of information about American culture," said Andrew White, director of the Center for New York City Affairs, a policy and research institute at the New School in Manhattan.

Gary Gerstle, a history professor at the University of Maryland who has studied the Americanization of immigrants, said Thanksgiving has become one of the more accessible holidays for newcomers, free from religious or political affiliation. The notion of gathering friends and family around a lavish spread of meats and beverages, on a day off from work and school, appeals to all.

"Thanksgiving has become not a way to honor the Pilgrims and the Indians, but to affirm the importance of family togetherness," Mr. Gerstle said. "It makes the transition for immigrants into this holiday rather easy. They can be affirming their own family, while at the same time affirming something that is central to America."

Not all children of immigrants get a chance to instruct on Thanksgiving. They have not had time.

"Yesterday, my father told me about this holiday," said Yan Shalomov, 7, who arrived in the United States three weeks ago with his family from Uzbekistan. He went yesterday to the Manhattan offices of the New York Association for New Americans, a nonprofit immigrant services group. His father said they will celebrate Thanksgiving today at his aunt's house, where Yan will eat, for the first time, turkey.

"It's important for us and it's interesting," said Yan's father, Robert, who along with his son spoke with the aid of a translator. "We want to be part of American life."

Valentina Tkachenko, 14, remembers her first Thanksgiving. It was just a few months after she arrived here from Ukraine in 1999, and her family gathered at her grandparents' home in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. They put up turkey decorations in the windows. They watched the parade on television. The tastes and the sights were new and strange and exciting.

"The Pilgrims were becoming Americans," she recalled, "and now, so were we."


Janon Fisher and Ann Farmer

contributed reporting for this article.

    Children Teach Today's Pilgrims the All-American Lessons,
    NYT, 24.11.2005,






Millions Line Up to Get Home

in Time for Thanksgiving


November 23, 2005
Filed at 11:15 a.m. ET
The New York Times


Millions of Americans hit the road, lined up at airports and headed for bus and train stations Wednesday to get home in time for Thanksgiving turkey on what's historically the biggest travel day of the year.

AAA said more than 37 million people will be traveling during the holiday weekend, undeterred by snow and more expensive gasoline, rental cars and hotel rooms.

Snow was already falling Wednesday morning across parts of Michigan and Indiana, but Kate Kehoe said she wasn't too worried about her trip from Ann Arbor to Flint.

''I'm glad gas is not $3 anymore,'' the preschool teacher said Wednesday morning as she filled her tank.

The forecast for highway travel was almost matched by numbers expected on airplanes. The Air Transport Association, which represents major airlines, predicted 21.7 million people would fly on U.S. airlines from Nov. 19 to Nov. 29, slightly more than the record number a year ago.

''Air fares are up probably roughly $40 ... since last February, but that hasn't deterred people,'' Terry Trippler, an airline analyst with CheapSeats.com, told AP Radio.

Snow threatened to create messy travel conditions across the Great Lakes states and south into the central Appalachians.

However, light snowfall during the morning caused no problems at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports, which expected to handle nearly 2 million passengers during the holiday weekend, said Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Wendy Abrams.

Snow in Indiana contributed to numerous wrecks during the morning rush but no serious injuries were reported.

''It's the first snowfall of the year and people don't have the winter habits yet,'' said state Trooper Robert Brophy at Fort Wayne, Ind. ''Every year at the first snow, people forget how to drive since the end of last year's snow.''

Snow showers were possible as far south as North Carolina, where Mount Mitchell had collected 10 inches since Tuesday, and a winter storm watch was in effect through Thursday evening for the West Virginia and Maryland panhandles, the National Weather Service said.

For hundreds of motorists, the day started with a miles-long traffic jam on Washington's Capital Beltway after a tanker truck carrying 8,700 gallons of gasoline exploded on Interstate 95 just north of the city around 5 a.m.

''This is not what we needed to start this travel day,'' said Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

No injuries were reported, but motorists closest to the scene in Beltsville, Md., were told to abandon their cars for fear of a larger explosion. I-95 was partially reopened by 8:15 a.m.

Some travelers packed up and left a day early.

''I wanted to beat the rush,'' Joe Lamport said Tuesday after arriving at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with his family.

The airport reported 289,597 passengers on Tuesday, nearly 4,100 more than what was expected Wednesday.

Lines were longer than last Thanksgiving at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport on Wednesday because the Transportation Security Administration had cut back on screeners, said Patrick Hogan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which operates the airport.

Amtrak put an extra 60 trains in service this week in the Northeast Corridor, but many trains were already sold out, Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black told AP Radio.

Amtrak spokeswoman Tracy Connell said 125,000 people last year traveled on Amtrak trains the day before Thanksgiving, up 80 percent from the 69,000 who ride the trains on an average day.

Millions Line Up to Get Home in Time for Thanksgiving,















Following the Revolutionary War,

the Continental Congress recognized the need

to give thanks for delivering the country

from war and into independence.


Congress issued a proclamation on October 11, 1782:


By the United States in Congress assembled.


IT being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf: Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged; the present happy and promising state of public affairs; and the events of the war, in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils, which is so necessary to the success of the public cause; the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their Allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them; the success of the arms of the United States, and those of their Allies, and the acknowledgment of their independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States:----- Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

Done in Congress, at Philadelphia, the eleveth day of October, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the seventh.

JOHN HANSON, President.

Charles Thomson, Secretary.

Source: Thanksgiving in American Memory, Library of Congress,
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/features/thanks/thanks.html - broken link










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