December 25th is almost universally celebrated as Christmas, the holiday when Christians celebrate the birth of their savior Jesus Christ. However, Christ’s birth is not the only important event to fall on December 25th. Many momentous things have happened on December 25th throughout the ages. Here are 10 of the most significant historical events to take place on December 25th (in chronological order):
10. First Christmas (336 AD)
First recorded celebration of Christmas on December 25th
The first recorded celebration of Christmas was marked in a list of Roman bishops that was compiled in 354 AD. For the date 336 AD, it was written: 25 Dec.: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae, which translates to December 25th Christ Born in Bethlehem, Judea. Nobody is sure which day Jesus was actually born. It is proposed that the date December 25th was chosen as the day to celebrate Jesus¹ birth because the date was already used by many cultures and pagan religions as a holiday to hold feasts and celebrate the winter solstice.
9. Coronation of Charlemagne (800 AD)
Charlemagne becomes Holy Roman Emperor
Charlemagne was one of the most illustrious and celebrated rulers of the Middle Ages. Originally the King of the Franks, a West Germanic confederation of tribes, he expanded his empire throughout Western and Central Europe, conquering Italy and the Saxons. He is considered to be the founder of the French and German monarchies. Remarkably, Charlemagne united most of Western Europe for the first time since the domination of the Roman Empire. His conquest of Italy was completed in 800 AD when Pope Leo III crowned him Imperator Augustus, or Holy Roman Emperor. Charlemagne would serve as the first Holy Roman Emperor of the Carolingian dynasty from 800-814 AD, during which time he helped spark the Carolingian Renaissance.
8. Kingdom of Hungary Formed (1000 AD)
Hungary is established as a Christian kingdom
The Kingdom of Hungary was formed from the old Principality of Hungary with the coronation of Stephen I by Pope Sylvester II as the king of Hungary. This legitimized Hungary as a Western kingdom that was separate from the Holy Roman and Byzantine empires. This led to a massive reconstruction of Hungarian society. Catholicism gained incredible strength throughout the land. The runic-like script used to write Hungarian was replaced with the Latin alphabet during this time. This also led to a restructuring of Hungary¹s kingdom administration along the Frankish Empire model.
7. William the Conqueror Crowned (1066 AD)
William the Conqueror becomes King of England
One of the most significant and important events in European history, the coronation of William the Conqueror as the first Norman King of England was the pivotal moment of the Norman Conquest of England. It began with William’s invasion of England and his decisive victory over King Harold II of England at the Battle of Hastings. The transfer of rule over England to the Norman’s led to several defining moments of English history. The native ruling class was removed and replaced with a French-speaking monarchy, aristocracy, and clergy. The Norman Conquest of England also led to the Norman conquests of Wales and Ireland. Many also see this as the birth of the legendary rivalry between Great Britain and France.
6. Sir Isaac Newton’s Birth (1642 AD)
Jesus Christ is not the only person to have a birthday on December 25th. On that date, the science world celebrates the birth of Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most important and influential scientists who ever lived. One of his most famous accomplishments was the publishing of the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, one of the most important works on the body of math known as physics. He defined three laws of motion now referred to as Newton’s laws. In addition to inventing calculus (but not publishing it until after Leibniz published his own foundation of calculus) he also invented a new scientific method which redefined scientific reasoning. Newton single-handedly propelled mankind into a new age of science, math, and reasoning.
5. Halley’s Comet Confirmed (1758 AD)
First confirmation of Halley’s Comet
Although Halley’s Comet, a short-period comet that becomes visible on earth every 75 to 76 years, had been observed and recorded periodically by astronomers since at least 240 BC, it was not until 1705 that scientist Edmond Halley proposed that it was the same object. He predicted that it would return in 1758. That year, it was first spotted on December 25th by Johann Georg Palitzsh. Halley’s Comet has gone on to be one of the most important visible objects in our general vicinity of space.
4. Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware (1776 AD)
George Washington crosses the Delaware River
It was the moment that turned the American War for Independence from the Colonial British to the American revolutionaries. On December 25th, 1776, George Washington led a column of the Continental Army across the frozen Delaware River in order to carry out a surprise attack against the Hessian mercenary forces in Trenton, New Jersey. The attack was an overwhelming success for the American forces, only suffering nine casualties while capturing 1,000 prisoners. The battle was also a major morale victory for the beleaguered American forces who had been systematically defeated by the British at almost every engagement.
3. First Game of Ice Hockey (1855 AD)
First reputed game of ice hockey
While the first organized indoor game of ice hockey took place on March 3, 1875 in Montreal, Canada it is believed that the first time that the game was actually played was on Christmas Day 1855. The story goes that soldiers of the Royal Canadian Rifles at the Tête du Pont barracks were clearing ice from Lake Ontario when they began to play a game using field hockey sticks and lacrosse balls. This improvised game would then go on to evolve into one of the world’s most internationally beloved sports: ice hockey.
2. Christmas Truce (1914 AD)
The story of the Christmas Truce is one of the most heart-touching events to take place during the horrors of World War One. On Christmas Day, 1914, a series of unofficial truces took place all along the Western Front. It is estimated that around 100,000 British and German troops were involved in these impromptu truces. The soldiers sang carols and met in the middle of No Man’s Land to exchange gifts. Joint Christmas services were also held for the involved troops. While there were other, smaller truces that took place during the rest of the war, there would not be another that was on such a wide scale as the Christmas Truce. The event has been glorified as a symbol of goodwill and peace, even amongst the horrors of war. The Christmas truce has been glorified in numerous books, films, and songs.
1. Gorbachev’s Resignation (1991 AD)
Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as president of Soviet Union, Ukraine
leave Soviet Union
Two earth-shattering events took place on December 25, 1991. First, Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the Soviet Union, resigned his official post. His resignation followed an August coup led by members of the USSR’s government that tried to forcibly remove him from power. One day after Gorbachev’s resignation, the Soviet Union, one of the 20th century’s greatest superpowers, was officially dissolved. The second important event to occur on December 25, 1991 was a Ukrainian referendum that removed them from the Soviet Union. These two events were instrumental in the collapse of the Soviet Union, forever shifting the balance of power in world politics.