David Bouchier

Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

Thanksgiving is quintessentially a family festival. Never mind that improbable story about Indians and turkeys, this week is all about families getting together.

Thierry Ehrmann / Creative Commons

I like to imagine that I am in touch with history – not on the level of a professional historian of course, but like anyone who has noticed the basic fact that the past shapes the present, just as the present shapes the future. We are products, and perhaps playthings of history, whether we like it or not. But the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s dramatic gesture in Wittenberg in 1517 might have passed me by, if it hadn’t been for a flurry of book reviews and an excellent documentary on public television.

Who can we blame for this extra hour of darkness in the evenings? Whose not very bright idea was it to push the clocks back just when we are all starting to get depressed about the coming winter? The answer is President Woodrow Wilson who imposed this ritual persecution in 1918, and the members of Congress who have supported it ever since.

Paul Vernon / AP

The golden age of magic coincided more or less with my childhood, which was lucky for me. Not only could we see real magicians at work on stage at the local music hall theater, we could even become magicians ourselves.

wolfgangfoto / Flickr

My ignorance about science is virtually complete. We had a tiny amount of science education at school: a little simplified physics and a little more or less unintelligible chemistry – literally unintelligible because it was taught by a Scotsman whose accent none of us could understand. I never learned anything more.