First Christmas in America in Tallahassee

December 20, 2013
By Julie Montanaro

Everyone has their favorite Christmas story this time of year ... Charlie Brown ... Rudolph ... Frosty the Snowman.

Here's one you may not have heard.

Historians believe the first Christmas ever celebrated in America was celebrated right here in Tallahassee.

You've got to be looking for it. Right down the hill from the capitol ... up Lafayette Street ... across from the barber shop is one of Tallahassee's best kept secrets.

Historians believe the first Christmas celebrated in America was celebrated right here.

Did you grow up here?

"Yes," said realtor and history buff Bert Pope.

"Did you know that?"

"Never ever knew this and everybody that I have talked to about, you know, America's first Christmas was here in Tallahassee, they all just want to say what? are you kidding?" Pope said.

The whole thing started with a construction crew kinda like this one. Crews working to clear land and put up these office buildings, started uncovering artifacts ... olive jars, chain mail, trading beads and more.

Historians would soon discover the age of these items coincided perfectly with the winter conquistador Hernando DeSoto spent in Tallahassee in 1539.

"DeSoto brought along contigency of priests, that they were devout Catholics and that they would've held a Christmas mass," said archaeologist Daniel Seinfeld.

Seinfeld says there was likely no "comfort and joy" that winter day.

"The Spanish were brutal in their treatment of the natives, so this would not have been an especially Merry Christmas, especially for the Apalachee," he said.

Right now you can find artifacts and information about the"First Christmas in America in the nearby Governor Martin house. but tourists and sightseers won't find much else.

"We've got this sign and we got another little kiosk," Pope said with a laugh.

Folks like realtor and history buff Bert Pope are trying to change that and make way for the tour buses.

"How incredible is that for the city of Tallahassee. It's just special," he said.

State lawmakers have issued proclamations recognizing Tallahassee as the scene of the first Christmas in America and will debate spending money to upgrade the entryway.

The National Parks Service is also nominating the encampment for a National Historic Landmark.