Over the years, lots 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 celebrate 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
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. 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.
4. 1741 // Astronomer Anders Celsius introduces the Centigrade scale
Some 270 years later, Americans still don’t know what the hell those numbers mean.
5. 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.
6. 1776 // George Washington crosses the Delaware River and defeats 1400 Hessians
He kept telling his men what a righteous painting it would make one day.
7. 1809 // Physician Ephraim McDowell performs the first abdominal surgery in the U.S.
He removed a 22 pound ovarian tumor, but the hardest part was probably getting insurance approval.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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. Unless you live in a house without light bulbs, don’t judge.
11. 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.
12. 1930 // The Mt. Van Hoevenberg Bobsled Run at Lake Placid, New York opens 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.
13. 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.
14. 1946 // Jimmy Buffett was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi
He was promptly swaddled in Hawaiian shirts, baptized in tequila, and worshipped by future yuppies in the nursery.
15. 1959 // Ringo Starr gets his first drum kit
If Pete Best ever gets a time machine, he’s making sure Richard Starkey gets a tuba instead.
16. 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.
17. 1967 // Paul McCartney and Jane Asher announce their engagement
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.
18. 1968 // Apollo 8 finished its successful moon orbit
Nothing terrible happened, which is why you’ve never seen a movie about it.
19. 1977 // Charlie Chaplin dies
Thanks to his iconic "Tramp" character, the silent film star remains a hero to well-meaning bumblers with funny mustaches.
20. 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.
21. 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.
22. 1991 // Gorbachev resigns as president of the USSR
Six years later, he starred in a Pizza Hut commercial.
23. 1997 // Jerry Seinfeld announces his namesake sitcom will end in the spring
24. 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.
25. 2006 // James Brown dies
The "hardest working man in showbiz" finally got a break.
A version of this story ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2021.