Christmas in Colonial America: The First American Christmas
The first Christmas celebration in what was later to become the continental United States took place in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565 (for a list of entries treating American history and customs, see Christmas in United States of America). Old documents inform us that Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales presided over a Christmas service held at the Nombre de Dios Mission in that year. The Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Leche now marks this location. The town of St. Augustine boasts of being the oldest settlement founded by Europeans in what is now the United States. Still, residents of Tallahassee, Florida, suspect that an even earlier Christmas celebration may have been held near the site of their town. In 1539 a party of Spanish colonists, led by explorer Hernando de Soto (c. 1500-1542), camped near the place where Tallahassee now stands. Since the Spaniards stayed from October 1539 to March of the following year, some Floridians speculate that they must have celebrated Christmas there.