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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

While early English colonists in New England declared war on Christmas, Spanish settlers in present-day Florida, Texas and New Mexico celebrated what historians considered to be the first Christmas events in the future United States.

The big picture: Hispanics launched, and kept alive, celebrations honoring the birth of Jesus in the U.S. centuries before the holiday would catch on along the East Coast.

Details: Historians believe Hernando de Soto, a dozen Catholic priests and around 600 Spanish explorers celebrated the first Christmas in the U.S. in 1539.

  • That's when settlers held a Christmas Mass in Anhaica, an Indigenous village now known as Tallahassee, the capital of Florida.
  • Spanish settlers also held the first recorded Christmas in New Mexico in 1598 at a newly built church next to San Juan Pueblo, now called Ohkay Owingeh. There, colonists celebrated a midnight Mass to mark Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) and Navidad (Christmas Day).
  • In 1683, Spanish explorer Juan Domínguez de Mendoza and Catholic priest Nicolás López held the first Christmas with Indigenous people in Texas in a small town known as Presidio.

Meanwhile: Puritans and other radical Christian separatists who settled in New England balked at any Christmas celebration, seeing the holidays associated with Catholics and the Church of England.

The intrigue: Christmas celebrations in the present-day American Southwest would continue while developing traditions like decorations called farolitos (or luminarias).

  • Mexican Americans for decades would attend Christmas Mass with mariachis and a reading from Matthew 2:13, where the Holy Family becomes refugees and flees to Egypt after King Herod orders the death of Baby Jesus. Attendees would identify with the immigrant tale.
  • Other Mexican Americans would hear a reading from Luke 2:7, where Jesus is born in a manger because there was no place for the poor Holy Family in the inn.

Don't forget: Some Indigenous people fought against forced Christian conversions and Christmas celebrations by the Spanish. Others incorporated Christmas into their traditional beliefs.

One fun fact: The town of Belen, N.M., was founded in 1740 as Nuestra Señora de Belén (Our Lady of Bethlehem).

  • The town has erected permanent Nativity scene artwork on public property and the area's Democrats and Republicans have resisted any calls to remove it.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

Omicron surge and storms disrupt air travel for 4th straight day

Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Another 1,000 flights were canceled in the U.S. on Monday due to COVID-19 outbreaks among crews for a fourth straight day, with storms in the Pacific Northwest adding to the chaos, AP reports.

Why it matters: Thousands of customers have been affected by the latest pandemic-driven travel disruptions since Christmas Eve, with airlines including United blaming a "nationwide spike in Omicron cases" in recent days.

Updated 26 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers — New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

The Robinhood M&A rumor mill churns

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Robinhood's valuation is now just over $11 billion, a fraction of where it traded in August and below that of its last private round of funding. Cue the M&A mongers.

Why it matters: It's not just Robinhood—falling values of growth-oriented tech stocks have raised speculation that formerly high-flying fintechs could be snapped up by more well-capitalized buyers.