As we mark the 400th anniversary of what has come to be known as the First Thanksgiving, it is sadly necessary to come to the defense of the long-cherished holiday.

Thanksgiving is Americans’ oldest tradition, celebrated by almost every native-born citizen as well as by newcomers, for whom it is a rite of passage into the national family. The tradition extends outside the country. No matter where in the world we Americans find ourselves on the fourth Thursday of November, we come together to give thanks—fulfilling the prediction of Sarah Josepha Hale, the 19th-century magazine editor by whose singular efforts Thanksgiving was transformed from a series of local celebrations on various dates into a shared national one.