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What Happened on December 25?

  • Christmas Day was observed for the first time. (336 AD) Previously, Christmas celebrations were pretty uncommon, and usually took place in January, if at all. Many early Christians actually felt that it was immoral to celebrate Christmas, since it was so similar to many pagan celebrations of the time. It only became popularly celebrated in 336 after the Roman leader Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire.

  • The Massachusetts General Court banned the celebration of Christmas. (1659) People could be fined five shillings for not working on Christmas, or for having a celebratory meal. The ban also specifically forbade Christmas-related reveling, card-playing, drinking and mirth. The logic behind the ban was that leaders felt most people did not celebrate Christmas with the gravity it deserved, which led to the "dishounour of God and offense of others." The Massachusetts Christmas ban stayed on the books for over 20 years.

  • The first trial run of the World Wide Web took place. (1990) The network consisted of two computers and a single server. The prototype had only been in development for two months before the successful trial run. The creators, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau went through several possible names, including the "Mine of Information" and the "Information Mesh" before settling on "World Wide Web."

  • Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev resigned. (1991) Just four days earlier, 11 of the republics in the USSR had broken off to form the Commonwealth of Independent States. Gorbachev's resignation marked the end of the USSR and the end of the Cold War.

  • JonBenet Ramsay was murdered. (1996) Ramsay was famous for her participation in child beauty pageants, and her murder started a media frenzy. She was found the next day, bound and sexually assaulted. Her parents were later suspected of being involved in her death, but no charges were ever filed against them.

  • One of the first Nativity Scenes was created. (1223) St Francis of Assisi set up the first Nativity Set in the town of Grecchio, Italy. The scene consisted of a donkey and an ox with a straw-filled manger between them. St. Francis also held a Christmas mass using the manger as an altar.

  • Stars and Stripes Forever was composed. (1896) John Philip Sousa composed the patriotic anthem in his head while returning from a vacation to Europe. Sousa claims that the entire march was composed in his head before he ever wrote down one note of it.

  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was introduced to the public. (1939) Robert L. May created Rudolph for the Montgomery-Ward department store, which was hoping to save money on their annual Christmas coloring book by using an original character. Almost two and a half million copies were distributed the first year alone.

  • US President Andrew Johnson granted general amnesty to all Confederates. (1898) Though Lincoln had issues previous pardons, they had been selective and limited. It was one of Johnson's last significant acts in office before he was impeached.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird premiered. (1962) Based on Harper Lee's novel of the same name, To Kill a Mockingbird was an instant classic. Gregory Peck won a Best Actor Oscar for his role as Atticus Finch. The movie was later preserved in the Library of Congress as a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" film.

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