Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmases Past: Exploring December 25th in History

Christmases Past: Exploring December 25th in History

Blogger: Amber Schamel

We all know that Christmas is a very important day, but did you know that there are actually a lot of other important things that happened on Christmas day? I thought it would be fun to go back and look at some events that happened on December 25th.

December 25, 352 A.D.: The first definite date that Christmas was celebrated on December 25th.

December 25, 1599: City of Natal, Brazil is founded.

December 25, 1776: Washington Crosses the Deleware
The history books usually don't do justice to this amazing story. December of 1776 found Washington and the young country of America in a bad position. The British had hired Hessians, German  soldiers to fight against the Patriots. Washington's recent retreat across New Jersey cost him precious supplies and also left him without contact with two key divisions of his army. He had four to six thousand men, and seventeen hundred of those were unfit for duty. The moral of his men was almost non existent.

On December 20th, much needed reinforcements arrived, however by the time he left men to guard supplies, the ferries, and the sick or wounded, Washington still had only 2,400 men with which to make his offensive.

Washington's plan of a surprise attack was not an easy one to accomplish. Somehow, he had to get 2,400 men (most of whom could not swim), 18 cannons, 50-75 horses, as well as baggage and supplies across the Deleware River before it froze over and the Hessians decided to make their own attack, or discovered their plan. By the time they made the crossing on Christmas night, ice floated in the river, endangering the watercraft. It was so cold, and the men so ill clad, that they were in danger of freezing to death on the trip over.

However, the crossing was successful, but not without "infinite difficulty" as Henry Knox said. However, the terrible weather, which the men compared to a hurricane, was a blessing in disguise. The noise of the storm, and limited sight distance worked in favor of the Patriots, and the Hessians did not discover their movement.

In celebration of the Christmas holiday, the Hessian soldiers had broken out the rum, and when Washington and his men surprised them on December 26th, they were still cuddled in bed sleeping off the effects of the night before. The attack was a great success. 22 Hessians killed, 98 wounded, and 1000 captured as prisoners of war, as well as muskets, powder and artillery. They must have captured some of the leftover rum as well. Now Washington's difficulty was to get everything back across the river again.

There are lots of other interesting things that happened on Christmas as well.

December 25, 1809: the first abdominal surgery in the United States was performed.

In 1831, Arkansas and Louisianna became the first states to observe Christmas as a holiday.

Christmas 1868, President Johnson grants unconditional pardon to all those involved in the Civil War, even despite heavy opposition.

December 25, 1888, first indoor game of baseball was played.

In 1914, WWII paused between German and British troops during the "Christmas Truce." The troops even exchanged gifts and played football.

Here's a funny one. In 1932 during King George V's first ever Christmas Radio Broadcast, his chair collapsed. It's also interesting to note that this speech was actually written by Rudyard Kipling.

There are a lot more, and that doesn't even touch the birthdays of notable people who were born on Christmas day, such as Isaac Newton, Clara Barton, Conrad Hilton (Hilton hotels), and Jimmy Buffet.

Have any notable things happened in your life on Christmas?

Multi-published author Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest". Her Christmas book, The Swaddling Clothes is an Amazon bestseller.
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  1. Nothing world-wide notable, but it always a joyous time with a lot of family traditions.

    1. Nothing world-wide for me either, Mary. :)
      But my little sister was born on December 22, which is close. I also have a niece born on the 21st.

  2. Amber, I just finished the book, last night. It was a great telling of one of the most amazing days in history and HIStory. I really enjoyed traveling through his genealogy to the final line. CHRISTmas is truly a showing of what God will do to show His love. Have a great day.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed The Swaddling Clothes, Dora! Thanks for stopping by the blog today.
      Have a Merry Christmas!

  3. Great post! My most memorable Christmas was the year I got engaged - waaaaaay back in 1981. :-)

    1. Awww, a Christmas day proposal. That's so sweet!

  4. Very interesting post. I love the story of Washington crossing the Delaware. My Christmases have been quiet. Thank goodness