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Pedro Menendez de Avile and the First Thanksgiving in St. Augustine, Florida

If you are moving to St. Augustine, Florida this fall season, take pride and give thanks to Pedro Menendez de Avile for hosting the very first Thanksgiving dinner in historical St. Augustine.

We have all been told the tale in elementary school, of the autumn of 1621 when the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony celebrated their first successful corn harvest and held a feast that was attended by the local Wampanoag Tribe, illustrating the first Thanksgiving. However, history tells us that this is not the case. In fact, as St. Augustine movers tell the tale time and time again, the first Thanksgiving took place 56 years before that date, in St. Augustine, Florida.

September 8th, 1565 marked the year that Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived on east coast of Florida. Saint Augustine was a saint whose feast day was August 28, and was coincidentally the date on which Pedro Menendez had first sight of the coast of Florida. In honor of Saint Augustine’s feast day and his major discovery, when Pedro Menendez made it to shore, he stepped off of his ship and named the land St. Augustine. But, Pedro Menendez and his crew were not alone.

The land of St. Augustine was inhabited by Members of the Timucua tribe. The Timucua tribe had called the land now known as St. Augustine their home for over 4,000 years, and even though it seemed as if they were being invaded, they met Pedro Menendez and his crew at the shoreline with grace and acceptance, prompting a feast by Pedro Menendez and his crew, with their new friends.

Pedro Menendez and his crew of 800 Catholic Spanish colonists were peaceful with the local tribe and wanted to show gratitude for their friendly welcome, so they hosted a Mass of Thanksgiving – the very first Catholic mass on American soil and the very first Thanksgiving.

The landing of Pedro Menendez and his crew on the east coast of Florida marked many firsts in American history. The Thanksgiving mass marked as “the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land,” as per The Cross in the Sand, a book written by University of Florida professor Michael Gannon.

But, how do St. Augustine movers and local historians know that this was the first Thanksgiving to take place on American soil? Because, a memoir was found that belonged to Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, who traveled the journey with Pedro Menendez and celebrated the mass with the Indians.

To take the historical findings even further, historians discovered the food provisions that were stocked on Menendez’s ships and indicates that if the Spanish shared a feast with the Timucua on September 8th, 1565, they most likely would have served “cocido,” which was a Spanish stew made from salted pork and garbanzo beans, seasoned with garlic, and served with wine and biscuits.

Have you recently relocated to St. Augustine, Florida? If you have never spent a Thanksgiving in the city yet, the St. Augustine movers at All My Sons Moving & Storage recommend that you visit the historical city and catch up on the first Thanksgiving site in town. Moving to St. Augustine is one decision that you will never regret, as the city is friendly and still boasts and preserves its historical presence, scenery, and architecture with plenty of museums, the original fort, and guided historical tours to preserve everything that city is most known for.