Who Held the First Thanksgiving Feast in the United States?

Traditional accounts say that the Pilgrims held the first Thanksgiving feast with their Native American neighbors in Massachusetts in 1620. However, there are other accounts of earlier harvest feasts of thanksgiving in places like Jamestown and Florida. The earliest account of a thanksgiving feast in what is now the contiguous United States occurred in an unlikely place.

America’s first Thanksgiving feast was celebrated by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas in 1541.

This early thanksgiving aligns with the Feast of the Ascension, on May 29, 1541. “The feast, which included a Catholic Mass, can be considered America’s first Thanksgiving. Reports of the event indicate that the Mass was witnessed by Indians, who watched quietly in amazement.” “It was really not the same kind of thanksgiving as we understand the term,” Dr. Fred Rathjen, a West Texas A&M history professor, told the Herald in 1983. “It’s thanksgiving with a small ‘t’ in the service of the (Catholic) church, but not in the sense of a national holiday. But it did happen, and it is significant.”

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