The recent unrest in Hong Kong may have led to the cancellation of festive celebrations around town, but Christmas is a time for hope and peace. In honour of the holiday, we have put together a list of historic events and human achievements that remind us of how magical Christmas Day can be.
December 25, 1914: Common ground on the football pitch
The mention of war might conjure up images of bloodshed, but an unusual football match that took place in the midst of the first world war might change that. It’s said that British and German soldiers declared a ceasefire on Christmas Day in 1914 and played a friendly football match in the no-man’s-land between their armies. The German team allegedly won the match on penalties. Whether the Germans won or the match even took place is a matter of debate, but it’s still a wonderful story.
The former Beatle Paul McCartney scored a No. 1 single with his song Pipes of Peace in 1983, inspired by the game. In the music video, a soldier from each side takes part in the football match.
December 25, 1066: William the Conqueror is crowned king of England
The crowning of William, Duke of Normandy in France (better known as William the Conqueror) on Christmas Day in 1066 made a huge impact on European history. Throughout William’s 21-year reign, he introduced the Norman way of life to England. His leadership influenced the English language: more than a third of modern English words originate from French. A ruler of immense wealth and power, he was also responsible for iconic landmarks such as Windsor Castle and the Tower of London.
December 25, 1990: The world’s first web server
Today we often take the internet for granted, but it was a monumental event when info.cern.ch, the first-ever web server, was launched near Geneva in Switzerland on Christmas Day in 1990. The event took place when software consultant Tim Berners-Lee tried to link computers together. The team behind this achievement was Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. The server was originally only to be used by scientists or the military, but it paved the way for modern technology that has had an impact on almost everyone.
December 24, 1968: A Christmas Eve message from the moon
Viewers across the US witnessed three of their astronauts become the first people to orbit the moon. Just before Christmas in 1968, NASA launched the second manned spaceship in its Apollo programme, and on Christmas Eve, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders beamed back the famous Earthrise photo, showing the Earth “rising” over the moon’s surface.
“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth,” said one of the astronauts, Borman, during a television broadcast from the spacecraft.
December 25, 1642: Isaac Newton’s birth
Isaac Newton has two birthdays: January 4, 1643, and December 25, 1642. This is because the calendar system changed after his birth, changing the date. Newton was one of the greatest thinkers who ever lived. Some of his discoveries include the theory of gravity, as well as the three laws of motion. The third law of motion can be summed up as “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.
December 25, 1939: Hello to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
While you might have grown up singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the song first appeared in a booklet of the same name. In the story, Rudolph, the youngest of nine of Santa Claus’ reindeers, is always teased for having a luminous nose. However, eventually he saves the day by using his special powers to lead the team through harsh weather. Films such as Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas also pay tribute to the ruby-nosed deer.
December 25, 1758: The first predicted sighting of Halley’s Comet
The famous Halley’s Comet appears on a 76-year cycle. The first recorded sighting of the comet dates back more than 2,000 years ago, to 240BC, but it wasn’t until Christmas Day in 1758 that scientists accurately predicted the date of its arrival. The comet was named after Isaac Newton’s friend, Edmond Halley, who concluded that the three previous sightings of the comet – in 1531, 1607 and 1682 – were of the same one.