Thanksgiving is the most American of holidays, its origins deeply rooted in the nation's past, its celebration an occasion for reflection regardless of one's religious beliefs.

In the Washington area, the day is marked in many different ways, reflecting the wide range of backgrounds of those who make this their home.

A group of vignettes offers a sample of how people in the Washington area are spending Thanksgiving. Important to them -- regardless of what they are doing -- is that they celebrate the day with other people. Not unlike the Pilgrims of 1621, they give thanks they are together with family and friends who have survived the year.

This morning, Breck Milroy will hoist a 14-pound turkey into the oven, but when dinnertime comes she and her husband, Roger Copland, will go to a friend's house for a potluck Thanksgiving dinner.

Milroy's contribution will be pumpkin bread. She's cooking the turkey, she says, because home on Thanksgiving should smell like turkey. Later, the bird will be sacrificed to sandwiches.

Traditions being what they are, habits scored with the music of feeling, Milroy, 34, and Copland, 37, have decided that Thanksgiving is what you make it. Last year, a six-hour drive to a family dinner in northern Connecticut took them 13 hours--bumper to bumper from I-495 to the Tappan Zee Bridge north of New York.

"We decided never again," Milroy said from the living room of their home on Biltmore Street NW. "The thing to do is stay in D.C. There's something nice about four days at home together, with no work to do and nowhere to go. The city will be empty."

Milroy said she will rise early, put in the turkey, then go for a two-mile run in her purple jogging sweats. Copland will sleep late.

"And now that the football strike is over, it will be just like Thanksgiving anywhere else," Copland said. "We'll light a fire and watch the Lions game and then the Dallas game."

After the games, Milroy, who works for the Environmental Protection Agency, and Copland, an energy analyst, will have dinner with several other couples. No kids running around. No renewed family spats. No hair-pulling, or cross-country drives.

"Thanksgiving is one of the few American holidays that really mean something," Copland said. "There's an exchange of food and affection. You can do it with family, or you can do it with friends. The feeling's the same."