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Sorry, Pilgrims: You didn't have first Thanksgiving!


As most Americans sit down tomorrow to celebrate Thanksgiving by eating huge traditional meals, watching football or rushing out to buy new appliances, or maybe all three, take a moment to think about whether you've had it wrong all your life.

Because most of us grew up with the story of a first Thanksgiving at Plymouth in 1621, with Pilgrims in funny hats and Indians in feather headdresses sitting down together, if possibly in uncomfortable proximity, and sharing a meal to give thanks for a first harvest.

In recent years, there have been lots of arguments and articles about what that occasion actually involved, but none of them have pointed to the big flaw in the story: the first Thanksgiving in North America by Europeans actually happened some sixty years earlier in St Augustine, Florida.

According to researchers at Florida's Museum of Natural History, the real first Thanksgiving was on September 8, 1565, when 800 Spanish soldiers, sailors and settlers under Captain Pedro Menendez de Aviles attended a special Thanksgiving mass, giving thanks for their survival and arrival in America. Half the fleet was lost on the way over.

The mass was followed by a meal that included at least some members of the local Timucuan people. The menu included Spanish foods such as salt pork, red wine, olives and chickpeas and may have included Timucuan contributions of corn, fresh fish, berries and beans.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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