ll due respect to Lady Macbeth, who was understandably in a bad mood when she uttered this immortal soliloquy, our days may not be unique as snowflakes but they do exhibit considerable variability over time.
This holds true even for Christmas, surely one of the most tightly scripted days in our calendar owing to religious custom, secular tradition, achingly familiar sights, sounds and smells and a general lack of creative imagination on the part of many of us.
Enough newsworthy stuff, weird, unique, important or just eye- or ear-catching happens on enough Christmases that we can generally think back and recall memories of individual years without trouble. Much of what makes stuff into news on this day doesn't even have much or anything to do with Christmas. Some of it is bad, some good, most of it is just, well, news. Or what passes for it these days.
Some things are life-altering. Some things change the path of history. Some of it just fills up air time. This stuff just happens to fall on a day we thought we'd reserved for other purposes.
On Christmas Day in 800 AD Charlemagne (Charles the Great, King of the Franks) was crowned first Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by a grateful Pope Leo III. Charlemagne had restored the pope to power by putting down a rebellion that had forced the latter out of Rome. A far-thinking visionary and highly competent ruler, Charlemagne basically unified Europe and pulled the continent out of the Dark Ages and a cultural stagnation that didn't look like it was ever going to end.
On Christmas Day 1066, William, Duke of Normandy was crowned king of England at Westminster Abbey in London. He was better known as William the Conqueror. His coronation came after his legendary invasion of the British Isles, which had culminated in October 1066 with a victory over King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings.
A detail from the Bayeux Tapestry showing Odo, half brother to William, cheering his troops forward. The Bayeux Tapestry is a 70-metre long embroidered cloth depicting the Battle of Hastings and the events leading up to the Norman Conquest of England. It was probably commissioned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux in the 11th century.
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=684174.
On Christmas Day 1642 (according to the calendar being used at the time), Sir Isaac Newton was born. The English scientist who first identified gravitational forces, he was also a pioneering mathematician and researcher in the field of optics.
On the evening of December 25, 1776, General George Washington crossed the Delaware River to carry out a surprise attack on British lines. Colonial troops caught Hessian mercenaries (employed by the British) groggy and unprepared for a fight, just as a terrible winter storm was setting in.
The attack became known as the Battle of Trenton and was of huge significance to the fledging nation, raising the troops' spirits and reviving the hope among colonists who were beginning to fear success in their fight for independence wasn't feasible.
Christmas 1814 heralded not just the birth of the Christ child but quite literally peace on earth or at least on part of it. On December 24, 1814 the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812.
Historically speaking, it was not really a seminal moment. Negotiations had begun earlier that August—the same month in which British forces burned the White House and the U.S. Capitol. The settlement essentially called the war a draw. (In Latin: "Status quo ante bellum").
All conquered territories were relinquished, and captured soldiers and vessels were returned to their respective nations. The Treaty did not take effect in the US until it was ratified in February 1815. One of the greatest American victories of the war (the Battle of New Orleans) took place more than a week after the treaty was signed.
What Americans regard as a critical test in our early fight for national survival was really just a local skirmish in a far larger global conflict, which raged from 1789 and 1815 and stretched from Europe to North Africa and even Asia.
The combatants were the French Empire and varying coalitions that included Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Austria and virtually everyone else that Napoleon hadn't already conquered.
The War of 1812 marked the first time the U.S. declared war as a nation, and it was against a country that regarded the conflict as a pesky distraction.
On Christmas Day 1868, at the tail end of his term, President Andrew Johnson issued an amnesty proclamation to "all and every person" who had fought against the United States during the Civil War.
This pardon was actually the fourth in a series of orders dating back to May 1865, which had restored legal and political rights to Confederate soldiers in exchange for signed oaths of allegiance to the United States. Those pardons had excluded 14 classes of people including certain officers, government officials and those with property valued over $20,000.
The Christmas pardon was a final and unconditional act of forgiveness for unreconstructed Southerners, including many former Confederate generals.
On Christmas Eve in 1818 "Silent Night," the hauntingly beautiful holiday carol that has been sung at Christmastime for close to 200 years now, was first performed in public . Known as 'Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht' in German, it was first performed in the Austrian village of Oberndorf at a Midnight Mass in the church of Saint Nicholas.
On Christmas Day 1896, John Philip Sousa composed the melody for "Stars and Stripes Forever" while crossing the Atlantic on his way home from a European vacation. Sousa grew up during the Civil War to become a long-time director of the U.S. Marine Band.