By Rutger Bruining
While Dec. 25 is a day for opening presents, tucking into the Christmas dinner and spending quality time with family and friends, Christmas Day is also synonymous with storytelling. Dec. 25 has played host to some of the most incredible stories and memorable moments to have ever taken place in human history.
Rutger Bruining, CEO of biography-writing service StoryTerrace, has documented hundreds of life-stories along with his network of writers. Now, the professional storyteller reveals the most amazing stories and events that have ever taken place on Christmas days of the past.
The 1914 Christmas Truce of WWI
The year 1914 saw the Christmas spirit manifest itself in the most unlikely of places-a World War I battlefield. On the evening of Dec. 24, after months of bitter fighting that had showcased the worst of what human beings are capable of, thousands of German, British and French troops in Belgium laid down their arms and held an incredible, spontaneous ceasefire. The soldiers then stepped out into no-man’s land – a place that would normally have seen them killed almost immediately – to greet the enemy. The soldiers traded food, cigarettes and alcohol, and even played a game of football on the bombed-out, frozen no man’s land. Later attempts at holiday meetings were mostly forbidden, but the “Christmas Truce” still stands as one of the most remarkable displays of humanity in wartime ever recorded.
Apollo 8 orbits the moon in 1968
This incredible moment in space exploration was never intended to happen on Christmas Day. The operation was originally planned to test out the lunar module for the Apollo 11 moon landing that would take place the following year, but NASA decided to make last minute changes to the mission plan to organize an incredible lunar voyage. Apollo 8 went on to result in a series of breakthroughs for manned space flight: The three astronauts became the first men to leave earth’s gravitational pull, the first to orbit the moon, the first to view all of earth from space and the first to see the dark side of the moon – all on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day! As viewers were shown pictures of the moon and earth from lunar orbit, the astronauts began to read from the Bible. The broadcast remains one of the most-watched television events in history, and the line, “Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good earth,” remains etched in the memory of millions.
William the Conqueror is crowned King of England
Christmas Day in the year 1066 played host to an event that permanently and irrevocably changed the course of European history. On Christmas Day, William, Duke of Normandy – better known as William the Conqueror – was crowned king of England at Westminster Abbey in London. This coronation followed his momentous victory at the Battle of Hastings with King Harold II, which ultimately resulted in William’s successful invasion of the British Isles.
William the Conqueror’s 21-year rule would see many Norman customs and laws find their way into English life. William the Conqueror is responsible for several landmarks in Britain, including the Tower of London and Windsor Castle, and for the sheer quantity of words in English that are derived from French. His reign also saw the governmental and legal system in Britain change considerably, a system which was upheld through the middle ages and helped to define the system that is currently functioning.
The first test run of the internet in 1990
For many of us, it’s hard to remember a time before the internet. For many more, it’s hard even to imagine a world without the internet! But it wasn’t long ago that the internet was merely a prototype. The very first test run of the internet, the driving force behind one of the biggest transformations in our technological capabilities that forever changed the course of human history, was carried out on Christmas Day in 1990. The server name was info.cern.ch, and was made by some of the same people who are now involved with the European Organization for Nuclear Research and the large hadron collider in Geneva.
The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan in 1979
Before America’s longest war began when the U.S. deployed troops in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union had already fought a war in the country. On Christmas Day, 1979, the USSR began deploying their troops into Afghanistan – a tactical move that was made as Soviet generals know that the rest of the world would be celebrating Christmas, and therefore any response from Western powers to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan would be delayed.
Birth of Sir Isaac Newton in 1649
Sir Isaac Newton, the mathematician and scientist widely credited with the discovery of gravity, was born on Christmas Day in 1642 (according to the calendar being used at the time). In addition to his famous realisation of the presence of gravity (you may recall the story of an apple landing on his head…), he also made great contributions in the fields of mathematics and optics. The three laws of motion were developed by Newton and formed the basis of many of the principles of modern physics, and he was also responsible for the discovery of calculus, a way of solving complex mathematical problems used worldwide.
Mikhail Gorbachev’s resignation and dissolution of Soviet Union in 1991
Christmas Day in 1991 was the setting for one of the most important socio-political events in recent memory. Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, announced that he would be resigning. Whilst the Soviet Union had for all intents and purposes already collapsed, Gorbachev’s resignation was the final nail in the coffin. The Soviet Union was formally dissolved the following day and, on Dec. 27, Boris Yeltsin moved into Gorbachev’s old office, ushering in a new age of politics and government in the East.