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Florida – 1565

Pedro menendez de Aviles
Pedro Menendez de Aviles (1519-1574), a Spanish explorer sometimes credited with celebrating the very first Thanksgiving in North America in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565. |

Fifty-six years before the Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated Thanksgiving in Massachusetts, a similar celebration was held in the Spanish colony of St. Augustine.

On Sept. 8 of that year, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and around 800 Spanish settlers founded St. Augustine, Florida, and honored the occasion with a mass held in thanksgiving, along with feasting.

Members of the native Seloy tribe attended the celebration, with the menu for the big meal said to have included hard biscuits, a salted pork stew, and red wine, among other items.

The National Park Service labeled the observance “the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent European settlement in North America.”

“The celebrant of the Mass was St. Augustine’s first pastor, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, and the feast day in the church calendar was that of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” explained the NPS.

“What exactly the Seloy natives thought of those strange liturgical proceedings we do not know, except that, in his personal chronicle, Father Lopez wrote that ‘the Indians imitated all they saw done.’”

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