25 Non-Christmas Things That Have Happened on December 25

The birth of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with the date.

December 25, 1066, was a big day for William the Conqueror.
December 25, 1066, was a big day for William the Conqueror. / Heritage Images/GettyImages

Over the years, a lot of amazing things have happened on December 25. The birth of Jesus Christ, however, was not one of them. J.C.’s arrival—the precise timing of which remains unknown—wasn’t pegged to 12/25 until 336 CE. While it’s certainly come to dominate its calendar square, Christmas isn’t the only reason to remember the date. What follows are 25 other incidents and milestones that make December 25 a day worth commemorating with silly songs and colored lights.

1. 597 // The Julian Calendar Reintroduced to England

Originally taking effect in 45 BCE and traditionally considered reintroduced to England in 597, it took a little over 200 years for England to fully commit to Julius Caesar’s preferred means of measuring time (and they were nearly another 200 years behind the rest of Europe in switching over to the Gregorian calendar in the 1750s). At least Caesar’s hairstyle, on the other hand, never goes out of style.

2. 800 // Charlemagne Crowned Holy Roman Emperor

A 15th-century representation of Charlemagne from the Cathedral of Moulins, France.
A 15th-century representation of Charlemagne from the Cathedral of Moulins, France. / Vassil, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In his role, the man also known as Charles the Great and “the father of Europe” helped to foster the Carolingian Renaissance—a glorious explosion of culture and intellect nobody has ever heard of.

3. 1066 // William the Conqueror is Crowned King of England

He invaded England and became the country’s first Norman king. Fun fact: His corpse later exploded at his funeral.

4. 1492 // Christopher Columbus’s Santa Maria Sinks on Hispanola

Ol’ Chris turned lemons to lemonade, using timber from the ship to build a fort near the modern Haitian town of Limonade.

5. 1741 // Astronomer Anders Celsius Introduces the Centigrade Scale

Some 270 years later, Americans still don’t know what the hell those numbers mean.

6. 1758 // Return of Halley’s Comet First Sighted

German farmer and amateur astronomer Johann Georg Palitzsch spotted the fireball, confirming Edmond Halley’s theory of 76-year cycles. Before that, everyone had figured it was driven by willy-nilly by demons or elves or something.

7. 1776 // George Washington Crosses the Delaware River and Defeats 1400 Hessians

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, 1851.
Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, 1851. / Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

His initial plan included three river crossings, but just one was successful.

8. 1809 // Physician Ephraim McDowell Performs the First Abdominal Surgery in the U.S.

He removed a 22.5-pound ovarian tumor, but the hardest part was probably getting insurance approval.

9. 1843 // First-Ever Theater Matinee Presented at The Olympic in New York City

This would’ve been a good day to get on the waitlist for Hamilton tickets.

10. 1868 // President Andrew Johnson Grants Unconditional Pardon to Confederate Veterans of the Civil War

And then, a few days later, he celebrated his 60th birthday by throwing a party for 300 of his grandchildren’s closest friends.

11. 1873 // Thomas Edison Marries His First Wife

Mary Stillwell was just 16 when she wed the inventor, who apparently neglected his family in favor of his work.

12. 1896 // John Philip Sousa Composes “Stars and Stripes Forever”

The magnum opus of the “March King” was declared the official march of the United States in 1987.

13. 1930 // The Mt. Van Hoevenberg Bobsled Run at Lake Placid, New York, Ppens to the Public

America’s first bobsled track built to international standards is on the National Register of Historic Places. Sadly, the gift shop doesn’t sell “I’m a Luger, Baby” T-shirts.

14. 1931 // The Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts its First Full Opera Over the Radio

The show was Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel, and a critic/color commentator talked through most of it.

15. 1946 // Jimmy Buffett was Born in Pascagoula, Mississippi

He was promptly swaddled in Hawaiian shirts, baptized in tequila, and well on his way to becoming “Mayor of Margaritaville.” 

16. 1959 // Ringo Starr Gets His First Drum Kit

Ringo Starr in 2015.
Ringo Starr in 2015. / Mike Coppola/Getty Images

If Pete Best ever gets a time machine, he’s making sure Richard Starkey gets a tuba instead.

17. 1962 // The Film Version of To Kill a Mockingbird is Released

The trial portion of the film takes up twice as much time as in the book because star Gregory Peck demanded more screen time.

18. 1967 // Paul McCartney and Jane Asher Announce Their Engagement

Paul McCartney and Jane Asher in 1968.
Paul McCartney and Jane Asher in 1968. / Central Press/Getty Images

The pair never wed, but Asher can say she inspired such Beatles classics as “And I Love Her” and “Here, There and Everywhere.” Plus, she avoided being in Wings.

19. 1968 // Apollo 8 Finished its Successful Moon Orbit

Nothing terrible happened, which is why you’ve never seen a movie about it.

20. 1977 // Charlie Chaplin Dies

Charlie Chaplin in his trademark top hat.
Charlie Chaplin in his trademark top hat. / Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Thanks to his iconic “Tramp” character, the silent film star remains a hero to well-meaning bumblers with funny mustaches.

21. 1985 // Longest-Ever Battery-Powered Car Trip Ends

Two blokes in a Freight Rover Leyland Sherpa drove Great Britain from bottom (Land’s End) to top (John o’ Groat’s, Scotland) in four days, likely singing Wham! all the way.

22. 1989 // Scientists in Japan Achieve -271.8° C, the Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded

This was a full 10 degrees colder than a brass toilet seat in the Yukon.

23. 1991 // Gorbachev Resigns as President of the USSR

Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev / Wojtek Laski/GettyImages

Six years later, he starred in a Pizza Hut commercial.

24. 1997 // Jerry Seinfeld Announces his Namesake Sitcom Will End in the Spring

Seinfeld taught us we’re all terrible people living meaningless lives. We miss it still.

25. 2002 // Katie Hnida Becomes the First Woman to Play in a Division I College Football Game

The New Mexico University placekicker attempted an extra point against UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl, but it was blocked. There’s probably a metaphor in there somewhere.

A version of this story ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2023.