Somebody once said, in a fit of irony, that after adopting Santa Claus and Halloween it wouldn’t surprise them to see the Spanish people celebrating something as North American as the Thanksgiving dinner. Well, as we have already cleared up that Santa Claus is in fact originally the European Saint Nicholas and that Halloween is a celebration with Celtic origins, we are now going to de-bunk another myth.
As you will see here, the very first Thanksgiving celebration was a Spanish ceremony. No, you haven’t heard wrong…..let us explain.
On the same day as the discovery of the Americas, upon arriving on dry land after a long and difficult journey, Christopher Columbus gathered round all his sailors and gave thanks to God for having led them to safe harbour. The majority of the paintings of the discovery of the Americas depict this moment, in that they show the future Admiral kneeling and looking towards the sky.
Alright, we realize this might not have totally convinced you. After all, who wouldn’t give thanks to god after surviving more than two months navigating the oceans without a clear destination? There is also the fact that the island on which they arrived, Guanahani, is technically part of the Bahamas and has never belonged to the United States.
OK, in that case we will tell you another story: Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the Asturian conquistador and founder of San Agustín in Florida, ordered a special service in order to give thanks to God for that year’s good harvest, followed by a celebration in which it is said that various indigenous people also participated. The chosen day was the 8th of September 1565, some 55 years before those famous pilgrims were to arrive on board the Mayflower.
You might then say to us that in order to celebrate thanksgiving, you have to be a true American, and Mr. Menéndez was Spanish. Well…let us tell you about another event: on the 30th of April 1598, the conquistador Juan de Oñate, after crossing the Rio Grande in what is now New Mexico, commanded the organization of a ceremony in order to give thanks to God for claiming these lands for Spain. As Juan de Oñate was a native of Zacatecas (Mexico) he can be considered American.
We don’t think that during these celebrations they had stuffed turkey (however it is probable that there was corn bread), so in this way they weren’t “typical” Thanksgiving days, but at the same time it is good to know that we also had a part to play in a celebration that, through the expansion of a country’s culture, is known well beyond its borders.
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