In 2007, we moved to the south, to Norfolk, Va., from New Jersey, and the kids came home from school with this tale of how Virginia was the real location of the first Thanksgiving and dinner should be ham and not turkey.
Horrified at what I was sure was revisionist history, I set out to prove the teacher wrong. I learned that I was wrong. The history books were wrong. The Macy’s Day parade and Butterball and Charlie Brown, White House turkey pardon in the Rose Garden – all wrong!
The first English colonists to offer up their prayer of Thanksgiving stood on the James River banks in Berkeley, Va., on Dec. 4, 1619, almost two whole years before the Pilgrim feast. Their charter spelled out that they must give thanks upon arrival and keep that day as a perpetual, annual day of Thanksgiving. Those Virginians had a meager meal of ham or bacon from their stores and possibly some oysters dug from the James River, not turkey.
The kids and I began a campaign for a “Pig Pardon in the Rose Garden,” and I wrote a little story that briefly became a book called “Pardon Me. It’s Ham, Not Turkey!” wherein a piggy named Ginny (short for Virginia) gets her pardon. Our statewide petition got 6,000 signatures from children and then-President George W. Bush re-routed his Thanksgiving plans to come instead to Berkeley Plantation in W.Va., where he gave the nod to the true birthplace of the holiday.