The first picture you see is the Christmas tree at Congress and the second is a wreath hung in Monticello.
As it is for many people today, Christmas was for Thomas Jefferson a time for family and friends and for celebrations, or in Jefferson’s word, “merriment.” In 1762, he described Christmas as “the day of greatest mirth and jollity.” Although no documents exist to tell us how, or if, Jefferson decorated Monticello for the holidays, Jefferson noted the festive scene created by his grandchildren. On Christmas Day 1809, he said of eight-year-old grandson Francis Wayles Eppes: “he is at this moment running about with his cousins bawling out ‘a merry Christmas’.
During Jefferson’s time, holiday celebrations were much more modest than those we know today. Socializing and special food would have been the focal points of the winter celebrations rather than decorations or lavish gifts. The customs that we think of today as traditional ways of celebrating Christmas, particularly the decorating of evergreen trees and the hanging of stockings, derived from a variety of national traditions and evolved through the course of the 19th century, becoming widespread only in the 1890s.
References indicate that at Monticello, as throughout Virginia, mince pie — filled with apples, raisins, beef suet, and spices — was a traditional holiday dinner favorite. Jefferson wrote to Mary Walker Lewis in December 1813: “I will take the liberty of sending for some barrels of apples; and if a basket of them can now be sent by the bearer they will be acceptable as accommodated to the season of mince pies.” Music also filled the scene. The Monticello music library included the Christmas favorite “Adeste Fideles.”
Below you see a quote from Thomas Jefferson! With all the troubles of 2020 it is so fitting!
1762 December 25. (Jefferson to John Page). “This very day, to others the day of greatest mirth and jollity, sees me overwhelmed with more and greater misfortunes than have befallen a descendant of Adam for these thousand years past I am sure; and perhaps, after excepting Job, since the creation of the world.”
Bell Tower Festival
at the gardens
Gardens are always open
10:00 - 4:00 PM Daily
Weekends: May - October
10:00 - 4:00
201 East Lincoln Way
Jefferson, Iowa 50129
The Thomas Jefferson Gardens bring to life the prairies that welcomed Lewis and Clark explorers and early settlers, heritage plants from Monticello, farming practices of Thomas Jefferson’s time, outdoor musical instruments to experience, a children’s garden, and so much more.