Bush celebrates Thanksgiving and steps into a squabble over the first to hold the event

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At Berkeley Plantation [where the president went today to celebrate Thanksgiving], Bush got a little history lesson.

The site claims America's first official Thanksgiving in 1619, when a group of British settlers knelt in prayer of thanks for a healthy arrival across the Atlantic. Their proclamation of thanks is carved into the ''Thanksgiving Shrine'' that Bush visited.

Of course, Plymouth, Mass., is best known as the home of Thanksgiving, as the place where Pilgrims and Indians celebrated the autumn harvest with a feast in 1621.

Bush took care not to explicitly take sides in that debate, though his hosts seemed to view his presence as all but an endorsement. The president did call the plantation a ''historic treasure'' with a ''role in this important holiday'' and gave a detailed recounting of Berkeley's historic claim.

''The good folks here say that the founders of Berkeley held their celebration before the Pilgrims had even left port,'' the president said to much applause. ''As you can imagine, this version of events is not very popular up North.''

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