Origin of America's first Christmas: Bradenton

Origin of America's first Christmas: Bradenton

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BRADENTON (FOX 13) -

Historians have traced the first Christmas celebration in the New World, America, to the state of Florida, connecting it to an expedition that landed in Bradenton in 1539.

Hernando de Soto led that expedition. A group of more than 600 explorers left Tampa Bay and headed north, setting up a winter encampment in the Florida panhandle.

"De Soto brought priests along, and as observant Catholics, they would have had a Christmas mass," said archaeologist Dr. Dan Seinfeld. "Although it did not resemble the Christmas we associate with Christmas today, it was a solemn occasion with a mass."

Archaeologists found the spot where they settled for winter.  Today, it's a small park near downtown Tallahassee.

They found pig bones at the site, which may suggest their Christmas feast included pork.

"To avoid starvation, they brought a herd of pigs with them – which probably introduced wild pigs to the southeast," said Seinfeld.

The explorers did not write about their Christmas celebration, or at least their journals were never recovered if they did.

Seinfeld said the expedition was more concerned about supply routes and preparing for conflict with Native Americans.

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