Ghosts Of Christmas Past : – Historical Events That Took Place On Christmas
As we gather with family and friends over the Christmas holidays, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on some major historical events that occurred during this very meaningful time of year. On the website, Histories Lists, Evan Andrews wrote back in December 2012, that the Christmas holiday “has also coincided with “some of history’s most crucial events. Indeed, “the most wonderful time of year,” has been interrupted by legendary battles, coronations of kings and scientific breakthroughs — and, it even helped to inspire one of the most famous wartime truces on record,” he wrote. Mr. Andrews highlights these seven events that occurred on Christmas:
1) Christmas Day, 800 A.D. Charlemagne Is Crowned Holy Roman Emperor: Often considered the “Father of Modern Europe,” Mr. Evans writes, “Charlemagne was a Frankish warrior king who united much of the continent under the banner of the Carolingian Empire. Beginning in the late 700s, Charlemagne forged a vast kingdom through extensive military campaigns against the Saxons, the Lombards, and the Avars. On Christmas Day, 800 A.D., Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne “Emperor of the Romans,” during a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica, in Rome, Italy.”
During his 13yr. reign, Charlemagne was almost constantly engaged in battle, and like great military commanders throughout history — often led from the front with his elite scara bodyguard squadrons with their legendary sword — the Joyeuse in hand. Charlemagne is said to have never been defeated on the field of battle, with some historians putting his battlefield record at 100-0. The Paladins, also known as the Twelve Peers, “were the foremost warriors of Charlemagne’s court and attained legendary status — much of it considered fictional, but, it worked — as they sparked fear and admiration among their adversaries. The term Paladins — in time, was considered to denote chivalrous knights — such as King Author and the Knights of the Round Table — and were prominent in plays by William Shakespeare. And, for those of you who remember the TV westerns of the 1950s/1960s, Richard Boone was known as Paladin, in the series — Have Gun, Will Travel.
2) Christmas Day, 1066: William The Conqueror Is Crowned King Of England: As Mr. Evans notes, Christmas Day 1066, “played host to an event that changed the course of European history. On that day, William, Duke of Normandy — better known as William The Conqueror — was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey, in London. This coronation came in the wake of William’s legendary invasion of the British Isles, which ended in October 1066 — with a victory over King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings,” — one of the most important military battles in history. William would also be responsible for the building of the Tower of London, and Windsor Castle.
3) Christmas Day, 1776, Gen. George Washington Crosses The Delaware River In A Daring, Nighttime Crossing With His Continental Army And A Decisive Victory Over The Hessians At Trenton, New Jersey
Prior to Washington’s crossing, morale in the Continental Army was at a very low ebb, desertions were rampant; and, there was despair throughout the 13 Colonies that the British would soon vanquish this upstart rebellion in North America. Two days before Washington’s crossing of the Delaware, Thomas Paine published his now immortalized treatise — “American Crisis,” with it’s most famous opening line, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” Often referred to as “The Pamphleteer of The Revolution,” Paine’s inspirational words gave the Continental Army a much-needed morale boost; and, Washington’s victory at Trenton two days later — on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning — is considered a major turning point in the American War of Independence against the British Crown.
4) Christmas Day, 1814: Treaty Of Ghent Ends The War Of 1812: Mr. Evans notes that on Christmas Eve, 1814, “the U.S. and Great Britain sat down to sign a famous peace agreement — ending the War of 1812. The American and British delegations signed an agreement which essentially called the outcome of the 32-month engagement a draw. However, he treaty was not ratified by the United States until February 1815; and, one of the most famous battles of the war occurred in January 1815 — at the Battle of New Orleans, where Maj. General Andrew Jackson (later POTUS) prevented the British from seizing the city.
5) Christmas Day, 1868: President Andrew Johnson Issues Final Pardon To Confederate Soldiers:
On Christmas Day, 1868, “in the waning days of his presidency, POTUS Andrew Johnson — despite bitter opposition — issued Proclamation 179, issuing amnesty to “all and every person” who had fought against the United States during the Civil War. As Mr. Evans notes, “the Christmas pardon stood as the final and unconditional act of forgiveness, for unreconstructed southerners, including many former Confederate generals.”
6) Christmas Day 1914, World War I Christmas Truce Is Reached: “Starting on Christmas Eve December 24, 2014, scores of German, British, French, and German troops in Belgium, laid down their arms, and initiated a spontaneous, holiday ceasefire,” Mr. Evans wrote. “The truce was reportedly instigated by the Germans, who had decorated their trenches with Christmas trees, and candles; and, they began singing carols like “Silent Night,” while British troops responded with “The First Noel.” Soon afterwards, “weary combatants eventually ventured into “no man’s land” — the treacherous, bombed-out space that separated the trenches — to greet one another and shake hands.”
According to Wikipedia, Captain Sir Edward Hulse reported “how the first interpreter from the German lines he met was from Suffolk, where he had left his girlfriend and a 3.5hp motorcycle. Hulse went on to describe a sing-song, which ended up “Auld lang syne,” which we all, English, Scotts, Irish, Prussians, Wurttenbergers, etc. joined in.” Captain Hulse said years later that “it was absolutely astounding, and if I had seen it on a cinematograph film, I should have sworn it was faked.”
7) Christmas Day, 1968, Apollo 8 Orbits The Moon: Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders were originally tasked by NASA to test out the lunar module for a planned Moon landing by Apollo 11 Mr. Evans notes; but, “when work fell behind schedule, NASA ambitiously changed the mission plan to a lunar voyage. Apollo 8 went on to result in a series of breakthroughs for manned space flight. The three Apollo 8 astronauts became the first men to leave Earth’s gravitational pull, the first to orbit the moon, and the first to view all of Earth from space, and the first to see the dark side of the moon.”
8) Christmas Day, 1991: Gorbachev Resigns, Marking The End Of The Soviet Union: On Christmas Day, 1991, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, after recognizing his rule had become untenable, formally resigned as leader of the Soviet Union. The next day, the Soviet Union became history.
Other notable events, John Philip Souza wrote “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” on Christmas Day, 1896; on Christmas Day, 1939, Montgomery Ward introduced Rudolph as the ninth of Santa’s reindeer; Christmas Day, 1959, Richard Starkey, later known as Ringo Star, received his first drum set; Christmas Day, and, on Christmas Day, 1964, the James Bond Goldfinger movie, was released in U.S. theaters.
I hope all of you have a Great Christmas, a great holiday, and a prosperous and meaningful 2015. V/R, RCP