I hope everyone had a joyous Christmas. Of course, life goes on during a holiday season, and I started wondering what else has happened at Christmas throughout history. Here are seven noteworthy events.
- Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne “emperor of the Romans” during a ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica (800). This event restored the Western Roman Empire, at least in name, and established Charlemagne as the divinely appointed leader of most of Europe. It also placed him on equal footing with the Byzantine Empress Irene, who ruled over the Eastern Empire in Constantinople.
- William, Duke of Normandy—aka William the Conqueror—was crowned king of England at Westminster Abbey in London (1066). William’s rule had many far-reaching effects, including changing the development of the English language (nearly one-third of modern English comes from French words) and contributed to the rise of the feudal system that characterized much of the Middle Ages.
- General George Washington led 2,400 troops on a nighttime crossing of the Delaware River (pictured). Moving into New Jersey, on December 26 the Continental forces launched a surprise attack on Trenton, which was held by German mercenaries known as Hessians (1776). Although this was a shocking victory, Washington’s army was unequipped to hold the city and he was forced to re-cross the Delaware that same day. Still, this proved to be a much-needed success for the Revolution.
- The United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium, ending the War of 1812 (1814). This signing came after four months of negotiation and was full of ironies — the United States’ biggest victory at New Orleans came a week after the signing.
- President Andrew Johnson issued amnesty to “all and every person” who had fought against the United States during the Civil War (1868). The Christmas pardon was the final and unconditional act of forgiveness for unreconstructed Southerners, including many former Confederate generals.
- On Christmas Eve in 1914, many German, British and French troops in Belgium laid down their weapons and began a spontaneous holiday ceasefire that lasted through Christmas day. Later such truce attempts were forbidden, and sometimes attacks were even ordered during the holiday season, but this was one time ordinary soldiers took matters into their own hands.
- Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders spent the night before Christmas orbiting the moon (1968). While TV viewers watched pictures of the moon and Earth, Borman, Lovell and Anders read the opening lines of the book of Genesis. They ended with the famous line “Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth”.
For more information about these historic events, visit http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/7-historical-events-that-took-place-on-christmas . The picture is from that website.