Washington, December 21, 2012 – A re-enactment of America’s first known Christmas takes takes place at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee, Florida on January 5th from 10 to 4. It is the first event in a big lineup of Florida’s “Viva Florida 500” anniversary events throughout 2013.
That first celebration of the Nativity certainly in the U.S. wasn’t white, and there were no decorated trees or gifts from Santa. In a very different era, early Spanish arrivals led by explorer Hernando de Soto to what is now the U.S. mainland brought the first known U.S. Christmas celebration in the winter of 1539-40 near Tallahassee.
Mission San Luis preceded California missions by over 150 years, and the reconstructed version holds a Franciscan church, Spanish fort, living quarters, and a five-story Apalachee council house. As many as 1,500 Apalachee Indians and Spanish colonists lived together at the mission for several generations. Explorer Hernando de Soto established a camp at present-day Shaw’s Point in Bradenton in 1539, and they observed Christmas Mass on the site.
The First Christmas events (free admission) will include a mass, living history demonstrations of military arts, food preparation, and map-making. Period music, a Spanish Golden Age drama, and a children’s Las Posadas re-enactment are also on the agenda.
Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in 1513 just north of what is now St. Augustine on Florida’s east coast as the first known European to set foot in the continental U.S. Representatives of De Leon’s hometown of Santervas de Campos, Spain are sharing in Florida’s anniversary events, and the King and Queen of Spain are expected to visit during the year.
Read more of Ruth Hill’s columns at Contemporary Christian Travel in the Washington Times Communities.
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