The Spirits of Christmas Past

By December of 1776, the Revolutionary War was going poorly for the Americans. George Washington needed a victory to inspire his small Army and fellow patriots. Realizing that it was the custom in colonial times for European military units to celebrate Christmas, Washington brought several thousand men across the Delaware River on Christmas Day to attack a British fort at Trenton, New Jersey. The young American Army captured about a thousand drunk and very surprised British Hessian troops.  The American cause was re invigorated, enlistments soared, and the Continental Congress realized the possibilities of Independence.

A few months after the beginning of WWI and just before Christmas of 1914, opposing German and British soldiers began singing Christmas carols. Soon the celebrating spread for miles along the trenches. Small unofficial truces were called, gifts were exchanged, and soccer games broke out in “no man’s land.” The Commanders for the opposing forces were appalled and ordered a stop to this “fraternizing.” Then, the previous participants merely shot over their opponents.  Infuriated by this insubordination, the opposing generals replaced the units involved and the war was restarted. Four years later, although the front lines were little changed, there were a total of about 15 million military and civilian dead by Armistice Day (November 11, 1918) at the end of WW I.

On Christmas Eve of 1968, Apollo 8 became the first manned spaceship to enter the gravity of the Moon.   There was anxiety as radio communications were lost behind the dark side of the Moon.  Soon, a watching Earth was relieved and awed as radio communications returned and Commander Borman and his crew read from Genesis 1.  “ Let there be light….”  The first photos of Earthrise provided world wide inspiration!