It’s Christmas Day!
One of the most celebrated days of the year has finally arrived: December 25. Although Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the name Christmas (Christ mass) wasn’t recorded until 1038, accord to English Heritage’s Christmas history. During this period, the celebration wasn’t limited to one day, but took place over 12 days; hence the twelve days of Christmas. This celebration peaked on 6th January, when presents were exchanged.
It wasn’t until the Victorian era that Christmas became recognisable as the version we celebrate today. Thanks to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, traditions were brought from Germany, and in the 1840s erecting Christmas trees, decorated with lights and presents became a tradition. Giving gifts on Christmas Day, opposed to in the New Year, also became the norm. Gifts for children included sweets, nuts or oranges, and for the kids of the wealthy
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Boxing Day, December 26th, is so named because of servants and working people opened the boxes in which they had collected gifts from the “rich folk”. The employers gave each servant a box to take home containing gifts, money, and sometimes leftover food. Like many Christmas traditions, Boxing Day came into fruition in the reign of Queen Victoria in the 19th century.
The servants also got the opportunity to go home on Boxing Day to give Christmas boxes to their families.
Peter Pan first staged in London in 1904
Peter Pan, the famous story of the boy who can’t grow up, opened on stage on December 27 1904. The J.M Barrie play is infamous nowadays, thanks to Disney, who made the cartoon movie in 1953. Nearly 50 years before its Disney debut, the movie opened at the Duke of York Theatre in London. The actor that took on the titular role in this production was in fact a woman by the name of Nina Boucicaul. This was because children under the age of 14 were prohibited by law from performing on stage after 9pm.
United States Endangered Species Act signed into law in 1973
In 1973 the United States Endangered Species Act came into law. The act was designed to help to protect endangered species from extinction as a “consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation”.
The law was signed in by the President Richard Nixon, after he declared that current species conservation efforts were inadequate. Two categories were designated: one for endangered animals, and the other for threatened.
As of 2023 1,780 species had been listed through the years as “endangered” or as “threatened”. Out of that total, 64 species have improved enough to be removed from the list.
Guinea is declared free of Ebola in 2015
In great news, Guinea was declared free of Ebola in 2015, two years after an outbreak.
British government announces that canaries will be replaced by electric sensors in coal mines 1986
The term ‘canary in a coal mine’ has become an idiom that means to detect potential danger. The term has its origin from the days when canaries were literally used in coal mines. Since 1911 the birds were sent into pits were miners to detect carbon dioxide and other potentially lethal gases in mines. As the small, colourful birds are more sensitive to noxious gases than humans, if they got ill or died, humans would have ample warning to evacuate. Unlike rats, mice and other small animals, birds require a larger air intake, due to flying, so they would show signs being ill sooner. Fortunately, on 30 December 1986, this inhumane practice was phased out, and sensors were brought in instead.
Ottawa becomes the capital of Canada in 1857
On December 31 1857 Ottawa became the capital of Canada. The capital was selected by Queen Victoria, and officially named on this day. It took years to settle on the city as the capital of Canada. There were over 200 votes on the issue, and contending factions in Parliament had opposing views as to which city should become the capital. Previous capitals included Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal.