First Christmas in America

Submitted by ts on


Let me share with you an account I found years ago. It is about the true story of the first Christmas in the Americas. The encounter of the Tainos*1 and Columbus as was told by Christopher Columbus himself but reported by very few historians. In my opinion, this is a great piece of history to share with our students.

"Indeed it is true that the things here are marvelous, and so also are the great villages of this Island Hispaniola*2... And all the people behave in a remarkable friendly manner...

"Our Lord Willed that at midnight, when the crew saw me lie me down to rest and also saw that there was a dead calm and the sea was in a bowl, they all down to sleep and left helm to a boy. The current carried the ship (Santa Maria) upon one of these banks. Although it was night, the sea breaking on them made so much noise that they could be hear and seen at a 3 miles distance. The ship went upon the bank so quietly that it was hardly noticeable. When the boy felt the rudder ground and hear the noise of the sea, he cried out...The master and many others jumped into the small boat, and I assumed they were going to follow my orders. Instead, their only thoughts were to escape to the Niña...When I saw that some of my own crew were fleeing and that the sea was becoming more shallow with my ship broadside to it, I did the only ting I could. I ordered the mast cut and the ship lightened as much as possible, to see if it could be refloated. But the water became even more shallow, and the ship settled more and more to one side. Although there was little or no sea, I could not save her (Santa Maria)...

On hearing the news the King (Taino) wept, showing great sorrow at our disaster. Then he sent all the inhabitants of the village out to the ship in many large canoes. Thus we began to unload her (Santa Maria) and in very short time we had cleared the decks. Such was the help that this King gave us. After this, he himself with his brothers and relations, did everything they could both in the ship and on shore to arrange things for our comfort. And from time time he sent various of his relatives to implore not to grieve, for he would give me everything he had.

I assure your Highnesses that nowhere in Castile would one receive such great kindness or anything like it. He had all our possessions brought together near his house and kept them there until some houses had been emptied to receive them. He appointed armed men to guard them and made them watch right through the night. I certify to your Highnesses that in no part of Castile could things be so secure; not even a shoe string was lost!"

(*1) Tainos is the name of the group of Natives who welcomed Columbus
(*2) Haiti and Dominican Republic

Source: Columbus Diary, 1492

Fuson, R.H. (Ed.), The Log of Christopher Columbus, International Marine Publisher Co., Camden, Maine, 1987
Cohen, J.M., (Ed.), Christopher Columbus, The Four Voyages, Penguin Books Ltd., New York, New York, 1969
Landstron, B., Columbus, The Story of Don Cristobal Colon Admiral of the Ocean and his Four Voyages Westward to the Indies, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1967

Map of Central America and the Caribbean Islands



: Educational Material Non Co