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Nov 24, 2009

Virginia: First Official Thanksgiving in the New World

Thanksgiving lore is all about Pilgrims and Indians, feasting on turkey at Plymouth, Mass. But many Virginians claims that the first true Thanksgiving occurred on the banks of the James River, a full year before the Pilgrims landed.

In 1619 the ship Margaret, captained by John Woodleefe, carried 38 men to Berkeley Hundred, a land grant on the James River near present day Charles City County, VA. With them they brought official written instructions from Richard Berkeley, their benefactor, that they annually give thanks on the day of the ship's arrival at the plantation. That day "shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to almighty god."

On the other hand, Pilgrims were the first folks in the New World who combined elements associated with our modern Thanksgiving: a communal feast of autumn’s harvest. Berkeley's group simply prayed and thanked God for safe deliverance to the Virginia Colony. Europeans, especially Spanish, had been doing that for centuries.

But in support of Virginia’s claim, Abraham Lincoln -- not the Pilgrims -- created Thanksgiving Day by an 1863 proclamation. There is no mention of pilgrims, Plymouth or pumpkin pie. No turkey, either. It was all about giving thanks to God, just like at Berkeley.

Berkeley Plantation still stakes claim as the site of the first Thanksgiving, with an observance every year in early November. The 1776 mansion and expansive grounds are open to the public year-round for tours.

Click ‘Post a comment’ to weigh in: Berkeley or Plymouth? Either way, let’s all give thanks for family and friends, and please pass the pecan pie!

Nov 16, 2009

The storm's over: Let's get outside, Virginia!

Click for slide show

OK, Virginia, the waters have receded and we’re drying out nicely from that weird confluence of a nor’easter and tropical storm. (We found all the leaks in our house, how about you!?)

So what are you going to do to get out and enjoy what's left of fall in the Old Dominion? Here are some of our ideas – feel free to post your own!

-Bike for food: Our friends at Foster Harris House in Little Washington just received a tremendous honor. Their Tour d’Epicure, a gourmet wine bike tour was named number one in the Top Ten Foodie Bike Tours in a new National Geographic book titled “Food Journeys of a Lifetime.” Click here to read our take on the tour.

-If you’re in the Roanoke region, check out Roanoke Outside, a really cool site that lists all kinds of outdoor fun in that region.

-Love coffee? Head to Colonial Williamsburg, where Richard Charlton’s recreated 1760 coffeehouse is re-opening to the public on Friday at 4 pm, with an open house all weekend long. Later that night, enjoy a celebration of chocolate, cognac and coffee at the Williamsburg Lodge. Also opening this weekend, “Deeply Superficial: Andy Warhol’s Voyeurism” at the Muscarelle Museum at the College of William and Mary.

-This coming Saturday (Nov. 21) is the Inaugural Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival at Poplar Forest, the retreat home of the man credited as the father of wine-making in America.

Nov 9, 2009

Fall Paddling on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

Click to view a slide show of recent kayak trips on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

We're seeing more waterfowl migrating through- ducks, geese, hawks- that we don't see in the heat of summer. Saw two bald eagles perched in some tall trees on Onancock Creek yesterday (perhaps they're scoping out a nesting site!). One swooped down and plucked a fish out of the water with his talons.

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