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Thomas Jefferson on Christmas Day

Is one day any different from another?
Paris Dec. 25, 1786

A dislocation of my right wrist has for upwards of three months prevented me the honor of writing to you. I begin to use it a little for the pen, but it is with great pain.
To Charles William Frederick Dumas, #46

Washington, Dec. 25, 08
I am full of plans of emploiment when I get there. They chiefly respect the active functions of the body. To the mind I shall administer amusement chiefly. An only daughter and a numerous family of grandchildren will furnish me great resources of happiness.
To Charles Thompson, #58

Monticello, Dec. 25, 20
I inclose you a copy of it, however, in the handwriting of one of my granddaughters for my dislocated wrist is failing to …

To Joseph C. Cabell, #33

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
What do these three excerpts spanning 34 years have to do with Christmas? Absolutely nothing. But all three were written on Christmas day. As nearly as I can discern from handwritten copies, none refer to the Christian holiday.
This site displays 71 letters dated December 25 among this collection of Thomas Jefferson’s papers, the vast majority written by Jefferson to others. I picked excerpts from the earliest one listed, 1786, one of the latter ones, 1820, and one in-between, 1808.
I suspect a perusal of all his letters of that date would reveal little or no mention of Christmas. Although Jefferson confessed a strong preference for the moral teachings of Jesus, he did not regard Jesus as divine. As such, the Christian holiday marking Jesus’ birth would have had no significance for Jefferson. December 25 was just another day to him.
The first letter, written when Jefferson was minister to France, details some commercial and financial issues relative to the U.S. The dislocated wrist resulted from a fall he took as he escorted Maria Conway around Paris.
The second letter describes Jefferson’s much-anticipated retirement from public life.
The third appears to deal with issues related to the University of Virginia. He needed a granddaughter’s help to copy and forward some necessary documents. That pesky wrist again …
Not a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” in the bunch!

Thomas Jefferson can speak to your audience on religious liberty!
About Christmas Day, not so much.

Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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