Washington, DC - Here's some food for thought the day after many of us ate a little too much at our Thanksgiving Day repasts: the Pilgrims were not the first to celebrate the holiday, according to Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens.
"In her book, America's REAL First Thanksgiving, St. Augustine, Florida, Sept.8, 1565, author Robyn Gioia, published in 2007, challenged the idea that the holiday was first celebrated by the Pilgrims. According to Ms. Gioia, some 50 years before British Pilgrims and Indians in and around Plymouth Rock, MA feasted in celebration on what has been generally recognized as the first Thanksgiving, Spanish explorers sat at table with the Indians of St. Augustine, Florida in the spirit of thanksgiving," says Weber.
But, Gioia first learned of the "warm weather" version of the Thanksgiving story when she attended a 2005 lecture hosted by the Florida Humanities Council.
University of Florida history professor Michael Gannon was one of the speakers at that gathering where he discussed his 1965 book, The Cross in the Sand, Weber explains. In it, Gannon disclosed that in 1565 a Spanish Explorer, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and some 800 Spanish settlers sat down with the local Timucua Indians for a celebratory feast.
Gannon's book apparently did not get enough exposure to cause a stir of his own in '65, but in 1985 an Associated Press reporter read The Cross in the Sand and wrote an article about "the real" first Thanksgiving. It is said that many New Englanders were not at all happy about the revelation and gave Gannon the moniker "the Grinch who stole Thanksgiving."
But, who celebrated the first Thanksgiving and why they did it really doesn't matter all that much, says Weber. "Pessimists might suggest that we have a lot to be fearful of these days and not a lot to be thankful for. They'll say that the threats of terror attacks have cast a dark shadow over the country. And, they'll argue that the country is divided politically and that unrest is widespread. But the truth is that every day is Thanksgiving Day. Challenges abound, they always have. But we have much more for which to be grateful than we have to be afraid of. As Physiatrist Robert L. Leahy puts it: 'giving thanks may be the best gift that you can give to others-and to yourself. And, like the best things in life, it's free'."