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PHOTO GALLERY: Signs of the Coming Holidays in Westford

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At midday on Nov. 23, the town’s pace was slowing for the Thanksgiving holiday taking place the next day.

Evidence of the upcoming celebratory weeks that begin with Thanksgiving were everywhere. Colorful lights were strung on the tree in the Common, decorations adorned the Country Store at Kimball Farm, and inside the First Parish Church, a Thanksgiving plant-scape defined the otherwise empty function hall.

Like the rest of the country, Westford residents traditionally begin preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday on the day before. Some begin road trips, while others board planes. Students are released from school in the late morning and supermarkets are jammed with customers.

Pies are baking in ovens across America, turkeys are defrosting, and eggnog is chilling. Thanksgiving was first observed by the Pilgrims as a way of giving thanks for the harvest. The first Thanksgiving is believed to have taken place in 1621. It is traditionally held on the third Thursday in November.

The holiday is followed by four weeks of preparations for the Christian religious observance of Christmas, the Jewish religious observance of Hanukkah, and the New Year’s celebration on Jan. 1.