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When was the first Thanksgiving?

Far from Plymouth Rock, more than fifty years before the Pilgrims arrived…

…a fleet of Spanish ships cast anchor off the coast of what is now the state of Florida. It was the feast of Our Lady’s Nativity, September 8th, 1565.

The group, led by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, was received peacefully by the local natives. Fr. Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, the fleet’s Franciscan chaplain, came ashore before the captain, bearing a cross. Don Menéndez then followed, meeting Fr. Lopez, kneeling, and kissing the cross.

A 208 ft. steel cross marks where the cross was first permanently planted in the USA

Fr. Lopez proceeded to celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving for a safe voyage. The natives joined the newcomers for Mass and for a celebratory meal afterward.

The place where the Spaniards landed is the oldest continually-inhabited city in the United States—St. Augustine, Florida, so named because land was sighted on the traditional feast of St. Augustine: August 28th. The parish established there is our country’s oldest Catholic parish.

The word “eucharist” means “thanksgiving,” and so it is providentially fitting that the first Thanksgiving in America was—first and foremost—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We hope you enjoy Thanksgiving with your families today. If you are able, start off your day with the Holy Mass, as they did in St. Augustine nearly 500 years ago. And wherever life’s voyage takes you, may the Eucharist be your sustenance and may gratitude be a daily habit.

There will be lots of cooking to do today and over the next month as the holidays ramp up. Set yourself up for success with a set of recipes direct from the Vatican! Former Swiss Guard and master chef David Geisser presents The Vatican Christmas Cookbook, a collection of favorite dishes served at the Vatican during Advent and Christmas. Includes engaging stories on the history of Christmas as the popes have celebrated it, as well as stunning, behind-the-scenes photographs of the Vatican. Makes a great gift, for yourself or for the avid cook in your life! Order yours today!

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