By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
December 22, 2023
Christmas is a time of celebration, reflection, and togetherness, but it’s also been a backdrop for significant moments in American history. Beyond the festive spirit and gift-giving, seven noteworthy historical events unfolded on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, leaving a lasting impact on America. These stories, which range from pivotal battles to acts of compassion, offer a unique perspective on the historical tapestry of our great nation.
- General George Washington Crossed the Delaware
On December 25, 1776, during the Revolutionary War, General George Washington and his Continental Army crossed the icy Delaware River to launch a surprise attack on Hessian mercenaries stationed in Trenton, New Jersey. The successful Battle of Trenton boosted American morale and marked a turning point in the fight for liberty.
- The Treaty of Ghent Ended the War of 1812
The Treaty of Ghent, signed on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1814, effectively ended the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain. The treaty marked the end of hostilities and established a basis for improved diplomatic relations between the two nations in the years that followed.
- The Birth of Clara Harlowe Barton
Clara Harlow Barton was born on Christmas Day in 1821, in the small town of Oxford, Massachusetts. During the start of the American Civil War, as a nurse, Barton tirelessly attended to the wounds of soldiers in the Union Army. At the end of the war, she was placed at the head of all the Union hospitals. Afterward, she played a major role in the founding of the American Red Cross and served as its first president. Barton was called “The Angel of the Battlefield.”
- President Andrew Johnson Issued a Pardon to Confederate Soldiers
President Andrew Johnson, a North Carolinian, bestowed a well-known Christmas gift upon former Confederate soldiers. Through Proclamation 179, issued on Christmas Day, 1868, Johnson granted amnesty to “all individuals” who had been engaged in hostilities against the United States during the Civil War.
- John Philips Sousa Composed “Stars and Stripes Forever”
Sousa recalled that he composed the famous march on Christmas Day in 1896. During his return voyage from a European vacation with his wife, Sousa received the distressing news of the recent passing of David Blakely, the manager of the Sousa Band. It was during this journey that he mentally crafted the composition before putting it onto paper upon his arrival in the United States.
Listen to that famous march here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAnky-QJwII
- The Apollo 8 Mission
On December 24, 1968, the Apollo 8 spacecraft orbited the Moon, becoming the first manned mission to do so. The crew’s live television broadcast featured them reading from the Book of Genesis and wishing a Merry Christmas to everyone on Earth, providing a sense of unity and hope during a time of social and political unrest.
- Healthcare Reform
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also referred to as Obamacare, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. However, the Senate passed the legislation on Christmas Eve in 2009. The passage of the Health Care Reform Law was marked by significant controversy. Critics argued it imposed excessive government intervention in healthcare, violated individual freedoms by mandating health insurance coverage, and raised concerns about the affordability and quality of care. Supporters, on the other hand, saw it as a necessary step to expand access to healthcare, regulate the insurance industry, and provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. The debate over Obamacare led to legal challenges, political polarization, and ongoing discussions about the role of government.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s remember the historical significance these dates hold in our nation’s story. From the daring river crossing of General George Washington to the Apollo 8 astronauts orbiting the moon while reading from the Book of Genesis, these events remind us that history is often shaped by the moments that occur when we come together in times of both celebration and reflection. These stories serve as a testament to the enduring spirit of America, where even on the holiest of days, history continues to be made.