Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Resources for Studying St. Augustine & the Real First Thanksgiving

Teachers and parents! Check out these resources for learning about America's real first Thanksgiving in St. Augustine - 56 years before Plymouth.

Learn the history behind St. Augustine or just scroll down to the online and printable resources available for educators (and parents). 

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St. Augustine's First Thanksgiving Meal

Fifty-six years before the Pilgrims gathered at Plymouth, another significant event unfolded in America—a feast that marks the real first Thanksgiving. The feast of unity and gratitude took place in the city of St. Augustine, laying the foundation for a tradition that would resonate across centuries.

Wood carving of  Pedro Menendez de Aviles
José Camarón y Boronat (1730-1803), published by Franco de Paula Marti in 1791, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés

In the early 1560s, a group of Spanish settlers led by Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived on the shores of what is now Florida. They established a settlement and named it St. Augustine. These pioneers faced challenges as they built their new home, but they persevered, cultivating the land and creating a community. St. Augustine still exists today and is considered to be the oldest city in the United States.

The Feast of 1565

On September 8, 1565, Menéndez and his men celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving. They invited the Timucua people, who were the first inhabitants of the area. 

This was the first time people got together to show they were thankful and to celebrate their beliefs in the first permanent town in North America established by Europeans.

A Feast of Unity

This feast was not just about sharing food; it was a celebration of unity and friendship. The Spanish settlers invited the local peoples to join them in this moment of gratitude. Together, they sat around tables laden with the fruits of their labor—freshly harvested vegetables, fruits, and the bounty of the sea.

A Diverse Menu

The menu of this first Thanksgiving in St. Augustine reflected the diverse cultures that came together. The Spanish provided dishes such as paella and cocido, and probably red wine. The Native American contributions were probably turkey, venison, corn, beans, and squash. The exchange of culinary traditions symbolized the blending of two worlds and the birth of a unique cultural heritage.

Gratitude and Friendship

As the settlers and Native Americans shared this feast, they expressed their appreciation for the blessings of the land and the friendships that had formed. 

This celebration went beyond the simple act of sharing a meal; it marked a commitment to understanding and embracing the differences between their cultures.

The Legacy of St. Augustine's First Thanksgiving

St. Augustine's first Thanksgiving set the stage for the spirit of gratitude that would come to define the Thanksgiving celebrations we know today. It was a genuine coming together of people from different backgrounds, sharing in a moment of appreciation for the blessings they had received.

The Plymouth Feast

While the story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth is well-known, it's essential to recognize the earlier celebration that took place in St. Augustine. As we gather with family and friends each year to give thanks, let's remember the pioneers of St. Augustine, whose feast of unity and gratitude laid the groundwork for a tradition that continues to bring people together across the diverse tapestry of America.

Online Resources

The best online site for learning about St. Augustine, Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, and the Timucua is without a doubt the Florida Museum's online exhibit

For critical thinking, check out this article by Did Florida Host the First Thanksgiving?

For a deep dive into the Timucua, this video: Thimogoua: The Timucua People - Deptford & St. John's Culture - Florida & Georgia, USA by Jaguar Bird. ** I strongly recommend that parents and teachers preview this video before showing it to their kids.**

Printable Lessons

Florida Museum also has a printable educator's guide called First Colony: Our Spanish Origins that is excellent. 

If you want a simple, print-and-go resource, MommyMaestra's St. Augustine: The Real First Thanksgiving one-page reading passage is the way to go. It also comes with a Google Slides presentation.

Recommended Reading

America's Real First Thanksgiving: St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 1565
by Robyn Gioia

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