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.

On the day before Thanksgiving, Curtis Alston spent hours in the fluorescent glare of the D.C. unemployment office at 1319 H St. NE, waiting for his name to be called.

Until two weeks ago, Alston, 33, said he earned $500 a week driving 18-wheelers hauling beer for a major brewery. After seven years with the firm, he was fired, he said, in a dispute with management.

"It's miserable, depressing, aggravating, demeaning. Especially when you have a family, it's very rough," said Alston, who lives in Northeast Washington with his wife Vonda, a C&P Telephone employe, and his children, Curtis Jr., 6 and Danielle, 2.

Yet even as he enters the ranks of the 10.7 percent unemployed in the District, Alston is determined that this Thanksgiving will be no different than past joyful family gatherings.

"I'm doing better than most people here," he said, glancing at the dozens waiting with him. "I am thankful. I am not as bad off as most people." His wife's job, some savings and a company pension will give him a financial cushion to cope with his $380 rent and other expenses, he said.

Today, Alston and his family plan to drive to Fredericksburg for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at his mother-in-law's house. "It's a day to sit around and eat turkey and thank God for what he has given you and enjoy it with your family," he said. "I am not gonna let that stop."