Skip to site content

Past Christmas Days: Historical Facts and Trivia

Christmas Day comes in all sizes. By sizes, I mean our Christmas days have come with memories – good or bad, happy or sad – of all sizes.
 

Beyond the pleasant, peaceful and meaningful day of giving and receiving gifts is remembering that God gave his Son on that first Christmas Day. (I don’t know the how of it, but by faith I know ’tis so.) To some people Christmas is a lovely custom, to others a grand holiday, but to one writer and scholar, “The Christmas story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, … If you take that away, there is nothing specifically Christian left.” (from “God in the Dock” by C.S. Lewis.)

 

There is an advantage for some Christians who are of the Orthodox (or Eastern Church) as they can celebrate two Christmases a year if they so choose. They can celebrate Dec. 25 according to the Gregorian calendar or Jan. 7 according to the Julian calendar.

 

History tells us that on Christmas Day of the year 800, Charlemagne was crowned as the Holy Roman Emperor. A mere 266 years later, in the year 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned as king of England.

 

St. Francis of Assisi is said to have assembled the first nativity scene. (Wonder if he had to get a permit?) In Austria, in 1818 the first singing of “Silent Night” was performed.

 

In 1868, President Andrew Johnson granted unconditional pardon to all Civil War Confederate soldiers. The state of Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday, beginning in 1836. Christmas was declared a federal holiday on June 26, 1870.

 

EthicsDaily.com’s Featured Resource

Texas colonizer, Stephen F. Austin, was freed on bail from a Mexico jail on Christmas Day, 1834.

 

The Christmas of 1941 was not a pleasant one for the people of Hong Kong. That was the day the Japanese forces took the colony in World War II. The emperor of Japan ruled Hong Kong for most of the next five years. The late Oz Quick, a Southern Baptist missionary from Guilin, China, was in Hong Kong recovering from an illness that day. He spent Christmas in a Japanese jail. We worked together years later in Taiwan.

 

Speaking of Taiwan, in 1947, the constitution of the Republic of China on Taiwan went into effect and became a holiday they called Constitution Day. Being mostly a Buddhist country, they assured the people this was not a religious Christian holiday. It was a religious holiday for the Christians and Constitution Day for the Buddhists, Daoists and nonreligious.

 

A history-making meeting on Christmas Day in 1977 occurred between Menachem Begin, prime minister of Israel, and Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt. The date was also Sadat’s birthday.

 

Others born on Christmas Day include: Sir Isaac Newton; Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross; hotel magnate Conrad Hilton; musicians Cab Calloway and Tony Martin, actors Humphrey Bogart and Sissy Spacek; and scriptwriter Rod Serling (“The Twilight Zone” and “Requiem for a Heavyweight”). Also born that day were American football players Ken “The Snake” Stabler, Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers; and Larry Csonka, Miami Dolphins running back in Super Bowls VI, VII, VIII.

 

Singer and actor Dean Martin died on Christmas Day.

 

Nineteen short years ago, the first successful trial run of the system, which has become known as the World Wide Web, was on Christmas Day, 1990. The Internet era began. If our Christmases cannot be historic, they can be happy.

 

Britt Towery is a former missionary to China, who lives in San Angelo, Texas. This column previously appeared on his blog.