Thanksgiving didn’t even start in Massachusetts…

Published 12:05 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Yes, it is true, the first Thanksgiving-type holiday happened in the area near St. Augustine, Florida, not in Plymouth, Massachusetts, as the history books would like us to believe.

According to the National Park Service, the first recorded Thanksgiving took place in 1565 almost a century before the Pilgrims arrived in the New World.

The first real Thanksgiving is attributed to Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. He and hundreds of Spanish settlers founded St. Augustine.

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As soon as the Spanish settlers were on shore, they held a “Mass of Thanksgiving.” Menendez invited the native Seloy tribe to join him as his guests.

The first Thanksgiving feast, according to historians, looked a lot different than the feast we eat today.

It is believed the Spaniards and Native Americans ate Cocido, a stew made from salted pork, garbanzo beans and garlic seasoning.

The pork stew was accompanied by hard sea biscuits and red wine. This is a far cry from the turkey, dressing and sweet potatoes we stuff ourselves with today.

That Thanksgiving feast was apparently the first community act of religion in the first permanent European settlement in North America.

Can you imagine the scene of the first Thanksgiving being one of swaying palm trees, sandy beaches and balmy sea breezes instead of Puritan hats, hardwood forests and chilly north winds?

This is exactly what it would have been like 1, 210 miles south of Plymouth. Plymouth in late November has temperatures around 50 degrees for daytime highs and lows around 39 whereas St. Augustine’s November temperatures are in the mid-70s for daytime highs and 50s for their lows.

Now we may wonder why, in our national observances of today, this first Thanksgiving was pushed back and replaced with the Plymouth Harvest Festival of 1621.

During the 18th century, when the British forces took control over North America from Spanish and French interests, British observances became the colonial practice.

It wasn’t until the United States became its own country that Thanksgiving became a yearly celebration, as recommended by Congress.

It was in 1863, that Abraham Lincoln suggested Thanksgiving should be held on the last Thursday of Nov. Lincoln also signed Thanksgiving into a national holiday on Oct. 3, 1863.

By the time the national holiday was signed into law, the Pilgrim standard had been set into stone and the Spanish version was all but forgotten about.

But thanks to some meddling historians, like me, we now know the rest of the story.