Christmas Day is without question one of the most anticipated days of the year. Despite our sparkly lights, petal-ladden pine trees and egg nog galore, the world can, has and will keep turning. I thought I’d share some memorable and highly important moments through the last century or so ranging from the underlying significance of carols we know and love, to cease fires in honor of this special day – and more. I hope you enjoy and learn something from them.
1. “White Christmas” was used as a secret, coded message during the Vietnam War. When it was played on the American radio signals in April 1975, it meant the city of Saigon had been captured and American soldiers should start their evacuation.
2. This song, “Do you hear what I hear?” about the Nativity, was originally written as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
3. On Christmas Day in 1914, German and British troops held a temporary ceasefire known as the ‘Christmas Truce‘. Both sides sang carols, exchanged Christmas greetings, gifts, and even played some soccer. In the above photo, German troops decorate a tree in their trench.
4. This is an excerpt from Winston Churchill’s speech on December 24, 1941, right after the break out of WWII. It was delivered from Washington DC while he and his American allies met to strategize the defeat of their common enemy.
I spend this anniversary and festival far from my country, far from my family, yet I cannot truthfully say that I feel far from home. Whether it be the ties of blood on my mother’s side, or the friendships I have developed here over many years of active life, or the commanding sentiment of comradeship in the common cause of great peoples who speak the same language, who kneel at the same altars and, to a very large extent, pursue the same ideals, I cannot feel myself a stranger here in the centre and at the summit of the United States. I feel a sense of unity and fraternal association which, added to the kindliness of your welcome, convinces me that I have a right to sit at your fireside and share your Christmas joys.
This is a strange Christmas Eve. Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle, and, with the most terrible weapons which science can devise, the nations advance upon each other. Ill would it be for us this Christmastide if we were not sure that no greed for the land or wealth of any other people, no vulgar ambition, no morbid lust for material gain at the expense of others, had led us to the field. Here, in the midst of war, raging and roaring over all the lands and seas, creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, here, amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart. Therefore we may cast aside for this night at least the cares and dangers which beset us, and make for the children an evening of happiness in a world of storm. Here, then, for one night only, each home throughout the English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.
Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.
And so, in God’s mercy, a happy Christmas to you all.
5. In 1868, President Andrew Johnson granted an unconditional amnesty to all those who fought on the side of the south, like these Confederate soldiers, in the Civil War.
6. The whole country watched NASA’s Apollo 8 live broadcast from space in 1968 during its journey around the moon. The transmission was the most watched television program ever up to that time.
7. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced his resignation on Christmas Day, 1991. The Soviet Union was formally dissolved the following day and, on December 27th, Boris Yeltsin moved into his old office.
8. On December 25, 1990, the first successful trial run of the system that eventually become the World Wide Web was conducted.
Hope you and yours are enlightened and inspired in one way or another. Happy Holidays!