September 8. Could this be the day we should be celebrating Thanksgiving? It was on this date in 1565 when an official ceremony of thanksgiving was held with an accompanying feast in St. Augustine, Florida.
The event marked the Spaniards first official claim on Florida, land originally discovered by Spaniard Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513 when he landed near St. Augustine. The Mass and feast of Thanksgiving was a move by Spain to ward off encroachment by the French, who were attempting to settle and claim the "New World" for themselves and country.
On September 8, 1565, more than 50 years before a little feast held by a group calling themselves Pilgrims in Plymouth, Mass., Pedro Menendez came ashore in St. Augustine for a Mass of Thanksgiving and a thanksgiving feast, attended by the real Florida natives, the Timucua.
So what makes the Sept. 8 ceremony of thanksgiving sigificant? Well, according to Florida history scholars, it was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving that also marked the first permanent settlement in North America. St. Augustine is recognized as the first permanently occupied European city in North America. Or as natives like myself call it "The oldest city in the New World."
I learned all this from Robyn Gioia when I bought her book this weekend aptly titled "America's REAL First Thanksgiving: St. Augustine, FL, September 8, 1565."
It's a book for children with easy to understand information about the native Timucua, the Spanish, the French, the fight for Florida and the first official celebration of Thanksgiving in North America. Robyn is a teacher in Jacksonville who decided to research the subject of Florida as the location of the first thanksgiving in the United States after she attended an educational workshop on Florida history in 2005. Her book is full of colorful illustrations and facts that kids will love, such as what might have been on the Thanksgiving menu in 1565.
The book is available through Pineapple Press and in all bookstores worth their (sea)salt in the Sunshine State. I plan to loan it to MiniMe's fourth grade teacher to share with her class next week as they prepare for the holiday celebration.