7 Amazing Christmas Events that Changed the Course of History
Are your halls decked? I hope so.
It’s time to fish or cut bait where this year’s preparation is concerned.
I love the season, don’t you?
Sadly, for some, it can be difficult for various reasons: a season of melancholy because of a challenging year or a time of grief and remembrance of loved ones gone too soon. We hope that the warmth of the season and the peace of Christ will give you hope and a return of lost joy.
December 25th has undeniable charms that draw us into its twinkling decorations and the fond memories of Christmas past. As moms, we plot and plan to make every detail shine – from finding the right gift, the most magical décor, to the perfect recipe for our Christmas feast. Families gather with love and warm wishes shared – and connections are deepened around the glow of a tree representing the Light of the World, who came to mankind as a baby.
Your unique style of celebrating makes a lasting imprint on your children. The memories, laughter, and traditions of your family’s holiday season will be carried forward by them, treasures for generations to come.
Then there are the historical connections to the Christmas season with events that have marked our world and future. We thought it was a good time to share seven unique stories of Christmases gone by that, in their own way, helped change the course of history.
1222 – St. Francis Brings First Nativity to Life
You may be familiar with Saint Francis of Assisi, born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone and raised in affluence before he chose a vow of poverty to serve for the rest of his life as a monk – later founding the Franciscan order. He’s the one who is often in statue form in your neighbor’s garden, surrounded by little critters since he is the patron saint of birds and animals.
One Christmas, while planning his sermon to commemorate Christ’s birth, St. Francis came up with a brilliant idea. To illustrate that holy night, he found a cave near the Italian town of Greccio, built a manger, and set out to bring the nativity story to life. The creative friar brought a live cow and donkey and enlisted a young man and woman to portray Mary and Joseph. Then he stood at the manger and told the story of that first Christmas.
Now, you can find nativity sets everywhere. There are simplistic ones like Fisher Price created for kids, retailing at around 30 bucks. Stunningly ornate and extensive ones like those by the Italian Fontanini family, with elaborate creche scenes staged with a seemingly endless array of animals, characters, and accessories. Lennox depicts the holy family in graceful bisque porcelain, and a modern stylized version is available through Willow Tree. If your budget allows, the artful pieces from Lladró create nativities that can sell for several thousand dollars.
What St. Francis began some 800 years ago has touched most of our families – and given the world the lasting tradition of displaying beautifully visual representations of the humble birth of our Savior.
1776 – Washington’s Wintry Crossing
Weary and freezing, George Washington’s troops were diminished and disillusioned after a discouraging defeat in New York. Now, with a little over two thousand poorly supplied and suffering soldiers, he understood the necessity of timely and strategic action. General Washington and his advisors concocted a plan as the odds were increasingly against the Continental Army.
They would cross the Delaware River with all the remaining troops and artillery on a frigid and stormy Christmas night for a surprise attack against Hessian soldiers at Trenton the following day. Some speculated that the German-born troops would celebrate Christmas with excessive merry-making and a good amount of beer and be ripe for an unexpected incursion. The weather had become so brutal that the Hessian sentries who might have otherwise seen the boats were given the night off.
As they readied the vessels, they faced driving rain and icy waters. Two soldiers even died of exposure. Washington’s cunning and courage, along with the Hand of Providence, gave them a significant victory that morning, which reignited the passions of many who could again envision the dream of freedom for our fledgling republic.
Washington’s zeal for liberty and willingness to gain victory – or face death – marked that Christmas as a pivotal moment in establishing our beloved nation.
1843 – A Christmas Ghost Story
It wasn’t on Christmas Day that Charles Dickens’ timeless novella A Christmas Carol was released for the first time but on December 19th. However, every single copy of the heartwarming, scary, and transformative tale had sold out by Christmas Eve.
The young writer had hit a slump, with two of his most recent efforts considered flops. With his remarkable Christmas ghost story, Dickens was finally redeemed as a writer and an advocate for the less fortunate.
He had been traumatized as a child, at the age of 12, seeing his father and his family taken to debtor’s prison. Young Charles was left to work at a shoe polish factory, a mere boy given the responsibility to pay off his family’s debts to gain their freedom.
As a young man, Charles was a journalist and a writer for hire, always drawn to the plight of children and the impoverished. His publisher found it odd that he would choose to write about Christmas – since that holiday was a minor celebration then. With ghosts from Christmas past, present, and future, Charles used the haunting of the unhappy and unkind Ebenezer Scrooge to draw the heartless old miser to a salvation of sorts. Scrooge learned to value charity and acts of goodwill, promising to always keep Christmas well.
The story behind the writing of this iconic Christmas classic was brought to the big screen with Dan Stevens (remember Matthew from Downton Abbey?) playing Charles Dickens in the 2017 movie The Man Who Invented Christmas.
In a way, Dickens taught the world about the spirit of Christmas, kindness, giving, and the plight of those in humble circumstances, and the world took notice. Now, that book, which has sold more than two million copies, with more than 30 motion pictures or animated adaptations, has forever influenced the way the holiday is celebrated around the globe.
1914 – A Christmas Miracle in World War I
This story never gets old. Amid the fear, death, and cold, huddled in trenches, German and British troops grew quiet as Christmas dawned. The battlefield was still, so much so that birdsong was heard by the weary young men, something that was a rarity during the bloody war. A brave soldier peered from the safety of the trench and spied someone else doing the same on the far side of the battlefield.
No one fired a shot.
Slowly, others began to bravely reveal themselves, and it became clear that a truce had been unofficially instituted.
Soldiers who didn’t share a language but did have in common the ache of being so far from home on Christmas day began interacting – haltingly at first, then as new friends for that blessed day. Soccer was played, photos were shared, songs were sung, and a celebration of peace was enjoyed for a few hours. Then, each returned to his own trench, knowing soon they would no longer be friends but again sworn enemies.
Those brief moments in the “War to End All Wars” revealed the kinship of humanity and that the desire to commemorate Christmas even transcends a world war.
1968 – Apollo 8 Christmas Eve Broadcast
It was the first time American astronauts had orbited the moon. They saw the details of its pocked and desolate surface up close for the first time. In addition to the snapped gray photos documenting the moon’s features, the astronauts couldn’t take their eyes away from the intricate beauty of a great blue ball that was home: Earth. It hung alone, a solo vibrant Christmas ornament against the dark of space. It was a breathtaking view that had never been seen before.
The crew of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders, had traveled much farther from Earth than any in history. On Christmas eve they began their broadcast to an audience of half a billion Earth-dwellers, who hung on every word. To mark that remarkable feat in space travel, the astronauts chose the biblical passage Genesis 1:1-10, taking turns reading each portion. Those brave men recognized they had the privilege of viewing that which, before their flight, had only been seen by God Himself. So, they read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. And the Earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light; and there was light…”
Though much of the world may not acknowledge God, that interstellar broadcast reflected the faith heritage of the USA, setting our nation apart with a bold expression of reverence for the God who fashioned land, sea, and space.
2021 James Webb Space Telescope Launched
Only a few years ago, at 5:20 am, the James Webb Space Telescope was launched into the heavens from Kourou, French New Guinea, on Christmas day. At that moment, much of the world may have been unaware of its significance. However, it all became crystal clear when images began to be shared by NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).
Around six months after its journey began, pictures of sites in the cosmos never seen before caused us to gasp at the beauty, wonder, and vastness of our galaxy. With those photos, we were reminded again that the “heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day, they pour forth speech; night after night, they reveal knowledge.” The writer of Psalm 19 could not have known that his words would be illustrated in such a breathtaking display thousands of years later.
That Christmas launch gave each of us a glimpse of things so far outside our realm – thanks to modern technology – and the hand of God.
The Most History-Altering Christmas Event of All Time – Ever.
Let’s face it – nothing compares to God’s gift at Christmas.
Though it may not have come on December 25th exactly – it is the center of the entire holiday – and the most astounding event in human history.
It’s when God sent His beloved Son to Earth, not as a conqueror, but as a tiny babe.
He gave us all a second chance through His birth, life, death, and resurrection.
No matter what you’ve done. No matter how you feel about yourself. Jesus came for you. He offers everyone across this globe the opportunity to become part of His family forever. It’s why the angels celebrated, filling the night sky with their brilliance on that previously quiet evening outside of Bethlehem. For humanity – and history – everything changed on that fateful and holy Christmas night.
“Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (Luke 2:14)
With that, we at Moms for America want to thank you for your part in our work. As the year draws to a close, and we look forward to a new and pivotal year for our country, we know that mamas like you make all the difference.
We wish you and your entire family the most wonderful Christmas and God’s richest blessings in 2024.