Thomas Jefferson celebrated Christmas… but not with stockings and Christmas trees- modern incarnations of the season didn’t take hold in America until after the Civil War. Jefferson’s Christmas was a time for family, friends, and as he described it, “merriment.” Family was all important to the Sage of Monticello, and he described the day” “the day of greatest mirth and jollity.”
He received the greatest joy from watching his grandchildren… opening gifts and playing games in Monticello. Describing the scene to a friend, Jefferson observed his youngest grandson; “He is at this moment running about with his cousins bawling out ‘a merry christmas’ ‘(this is) a christmas gift” His music library included many Christmas standards including the family favorite, Adeste Fideles.
Good friends, good food, and good conversation… marked the holiday season at Monticello. Plenty of wine was on hand to compliment Jefferson’s holiday favorite, mince pie. Mince at Monticello consisted of apples, raisins, beef suet(fat), and spices.