When we think of Thanksgiving here in the U.S., we think of pilgrims and Native Americans and the Mayflower and Massachusetts. If you are of a certain age, you may even remember school pageants celebrating Thanksgiving. Perhaps you got to dress up as a "friendly native", or a prim pilgrim in stiff black and white clothes. But is that the real story of Thanksgiving? Not according to some people!
A controversy rages as to who celebrated the first Thanksgiving, and where it took place.
Was the first Thanksgiving in Florida?
On September 8, 1565 over 600 Spainards under the leadership of Don Pedro Menendez Aviles came to what would be known as St. Augustine, Florida.
They celebrated the first Mass of Thanksgiving, and then partook of a meal, inviting the local natives, who according to records, "imitated all they saw done".
The celebrant of the Mass was chaplain of the Menedez ship, and St. Augustine's first priest, Father Francisco Lopez de Medoza Grajales.
Or was the first Thanksgiving in Virginia?
On December 4, 1619 a ship from England landed in Virginia carrying 38 colonists who were to settle "The Berkeley Hundred." The Berkeley Hundred was a land grant given to a Richard Berkeley, William Throckmorton, and others by the Virginia Company of London. The new plantation's charter included instructions that the colonists keep the day of their ship's arrival perpetually as a day of Thanksgiving. According to the stories, upon their arrival, the colonists knelt in prayer and began the Thanksgiving tradition.
This first Thanksgiving, held in Virginia, was recognized by President John F. Kennedy. Written on November 5, 1963, his Thanksgiving proclamation began:
"Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time for Thanksgiving..."
So where did the first Thanksgiving take place?
Florida? Virginia? Some believe it was Texas, but that is a whole 'nother story.
Traditions are hard to change. For most of us, Thanksgiving will always be about pilgrims, and native Americans and a big turkey dinner. But regardless of the who, and the where, the tradition began, it has been, and should always be, about giving thanks.