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Friday, 26 December 2014

10 Major Events that happened on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the Start of Kwanzaa

This year Hanukkah's last night landed on Christmas Eve and the next two days saw celebrations with Christmas and the start of Kwanzaa. However many major events have happened on these three days throughout our history. Here I will look at ten of them, judging how important they were in shaping human history. Now let's dive right in and look at the 10 Major Events that happened on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the first day of Kwanzaa.

Number 10- The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami- 26th December 2004
Also called the Boxing Day Tsunami in the Commonwealth countries the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami is one of the most devastating natural disasters in all of recorded history with it being the 8th most deadly natural disaster in all of human history. At the time of writing it is the tenth anniversary of the tsunami and the memories of the devastating natural disaster is still with many people. On the 26th an earthquake was caused as the Indian Tectonic Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate, (the Burma plate being forced underneath the Indian plate), causing a series of underwater earthquakes. They were extremely powerful having a magnitude of 9.1 at its smallest and caused the creation of waves 30 meters high, (100 ft). The waves flooded large areas of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and even hit the East Coast of Africa with Somalia, Madagascar and Kenya being affected. Across 14 separate countries 230,000 people were killed and up to 1.74 million were displaced.The economy was affected severely with tourism and fishing being greatly disrupted; many people were in the area on holiday. Mangroves, wetlands and coral reefs were destroyed which severely depleted the ecosystem and up to US $14 billion was given in in humanitarian aid.

Number 9- The Ku Klux Klan formation- 24th December 1865
Following the defeat of the Confederacy earlier in the year six Confederate veterans met in Pulsaki, Tennessee to form an organisation to deprive the rights of the newly freed African-Americans in the South. This group became the Ku Klux Klan, (KKK). The KKK dressed in white robes, (signifying that they were 'ghosts of the Confederacy'), to start their wave of terror against freedmen and white Americans who sympathized with them through lynching, assault and firebombing houses. In direct violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments they stripped African-Americans of the vote during Reconstruction, (1865-1877), and attacked Northern whites, nicknamed 'carpetbaggers', who came to help African-Americans. In 1877 they ended their actions when Reconstruction ended but following D.W.Griffith's The Birth of a Nation and the rise of nativism in 1920s America the KKK returned but luckily by the 21st century has almost completely gone out of existence.

Number 8- Hirohito becomes Emperor of Japan- 25th December 1926
On December 25th Emperor Taishō died and his eldest son Hirohito became Emperor although the public ceremony which publicly confirmed him as Emperor would not take place for another two years. Hirohito inherited a quickly growing world power with Japan by 1926 having the ninth largest economy, the third largest navy and being one of the four permanent members of the council of the League of Nations, (the predecessor to the UN). Although he inherited the ninth largest economy his early reign was that of financial crisis and increasing military influence in the government. Hirohito himself was almost assassinated in 1932 and the assassination of the Prime Minister marked the end of civilian ran government until after World War Two as the military's influence quickly grew in the government. This eventually culminated in Japan invading China, (already establishing a puppet state in Manchuria), and Japan's entry into the Second World War.

Number 7- The defense of Louis XVI of France begins- 26th December 1792
Louis XVI was arrested by the French Revolutionaries in the August of 1792 and he was trialed for high treason at the start of December but his defense only started on the 26th. The King had hoped to get the best legal minds in France to defend him because if he was found guilty he would have been executed. He got Raymond Deseze who was assisted by Francois Denis Tronchet and Guillaume-Chrétien de Lamoignon de Malesherbes who was Louis' former Secretary of State. They stated that Louis could not be trialed as it contradicted the Constitution of 1791 which forbade the King from being trialed, questioned the right of the National Convention to be judge, jury and by default executioner and stated that Louis was 'the restorer of French liberty'. Louis even spoke in defense of himself saying:
You have heard my defense, I would not repeat the details. In talking to you perhaps for the last time, I declare that my conscience reproaches me with nothing, and my defenders have told you the truth. I never feared the public examination of my conduct, but my heart is torn by the imputation that I would want to shed the blood of the people and especially that the misfortunes of August 10th be attributed to me. I avow that the many proofs that I have always acted from my love of the people, and the manner in which I have always conducted myself, seemed to prove that I did not fear to put myself forward in order to spare their blood, and forever prevent such an imputation.
The next month Louis was found guilty and was guillotined which started The Reign of Terror in France where aristocrats and any deemed to be anti-revolutionary and notable victims included the Queen Marie Antionette, Guillame de Malesherbes and even the person who started the Terror Maximilien de Robespierre.

Number 6- Marie and Pierre Curie isolate Radium- 26th December 1898
The Curies were some of the most accomplished scientists in history with them being the pioneers of radioactivity research which has had a great benefit on our lives. Marie Curie was even the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and was the first person to win one twice. On December 26th they announced that they had discovered another element, Radium, just months after they had discovered Polonium. This led to the coining of the term radioactive and radioactivity Their research greatly improved cancer research with them announcing that when exposed to radium cancer cells are killed at a faster rate compared to healthy cells. The discovery of radium was very influential with it for years being used to treat cancer and helped influence the use of more safer materials which has saved countless of lives.

Number 5- William the Conqueror is crowned King of England- 25th December 1066
1066 marked a pivotal change in English history. The King of England Edward who was childless in 1051 appointed William of Normandy as the successor to the English throne. However when he died he had seemingly made Harold Godwinson his heir who was crowned shortly after Edwards death. William of Normandy however wasn't happy about this and claimed the English throne and set out to invade England. After King Harold had defeated another contender to the throne, the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada, he traveled south to where William had landed and they fought at Hastings. Harold was killed, (seemingly by an arrow to the eye), and William then marched to London. Harold's successor Edgar the Ætheling quickly abdicated when William arrived on Christmas Day allowing William to be crowned King. This changed England forever with William creating a more centralized state with the Domesday Book, brought surnames for the peasantry and changed the English language. French became the language used in the courts and government with Lords, Earls etc. learning French to have a higher standing with the new French King. French words started to come into English and if you notice most of the words with authority are of French origin for this reason.

Number 4- The origin of Kwanzaa- 26th December 1966
In 1966 the first holiday for exclusively for African-Americans was founded by Maulana Karenga. Karenga was a member of the Black Panthers and wanted a holiday to celebrate black nationalism and to honor African culture. Thus Kwanzaa was created deriving from the Swahili first fruit celebration 'matunda ya kwanza'. Since 1966 the holiday has become increasingly popular with between December 26th to January 1st up to 5% of African-American households celebrating it and its influence increasing with some black Canadians starting to celebrate it. Kwanzaa remains one of Americas major holidays bringing happiness and cultural significance each year.

Number 3- The fall of the USSR- 24th-26th December 1991
From the 24th-26th December 1991 the first communist state and successor to the Russian Empire had collapsed. Since his ascension of power in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev had tried to install a reformation policy called glasnost and perestroika which was to end censorship and reform the economy while keeping communism. This proved to be impossible with the rigidness of the economic system which could have been averted had Gorbachev had full support from the Cabinet. After a failed coup in August which tried to bring back the days of former USSR General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev it became clear that the USSR could no longer go on. Throughout the following months many of the Soviet republics declared their independence including the Baltic states, Azerbaijan and the Ukraine. On the 24th Boris Yeltsin approached the UN stating that Russia would be the USSR's successor state and the 25th saw Gorbachev resigning thus giving Boris Yeltsin full power to be President of Russia. On the 26th the upper chamber dissolved the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War and 74 years of communist rule. However this impromptu collapse would spell trouble years later with NATO hastily accepting former communist nations leading to an economic collapse for Russia, the divide between Russia and Western loyalties leading to the current crisis in Ukraine and the independence of the Caucus states leading to uprisings in Chechnya.

Number 2- The first Christmas- 25th December 336
No one actually knows what day Jesus was born on, although that we can guess that it could be in the year 4 BCE, (or 4 BC), but the first time the birth of Christ was celebrated was in 336. The Emperor of Rome Constantine had converted to Christianity but early Christians had no holidays to celebrate their religion so Constantine made one: Christmas. A few years later Pope Julius I officially made December 25th the day that Christians celebrate Christmas. It is thought that Constantine chose the 25th December as it would coincide with Hanukkah, the Roman holiday of Saturnalia and the Winter Solstice. In some of the Germanic territories and Britain Yule was celebrated at this time as well. This would make sense that Constantine to celebrate Christmas on the 25th then but with Constantine being very tolerant to other religions this may be a subtle way to make his subjects convert. Nevertheless the holiday took root and has allowed centuries later to be now about a fat man who climbs down chimneys and being forced to watch Frozen by my little sister.

Number 1- Charlemagne is declared Emperor- 25th December 800
A major event happened on Christmas Day in the year 800. Charlemagne was King of the Franks and controlled a kingdom that stretched from the Spanish border across France, the Low Countries, Germany, North Italy and into Bohemia, Moravia and into the Balkans. He had forcibly spread Christianity, had restored the Papacy to Rome and was the greatest power since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in West Europe. When Charlemagne was praying on the 25th December Pope Leo III crowned him Emperor surprising Charlemagne according to his official biographer although it is highly unlikely that the Pope crowned him without prior arrangement. Although it was not acknowledged by the Byzantines in the East Charlemagne saw himself as the successor to Rome which changed European history. It was the first step towards the formation of the Holy Roman Empire whose founder wanted to continue the legacy of Charlemagne which would heavily influence European affairs until the Napoleonic Wars and Charlemagne's mass power made him divide his empire between his sons, and they their sons, which split the continent into its modern day contours with nationalities being derived from these division in lands.

Thanks for reading and on New Years Eve I'll be doing a New Years Special!

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