December 31, 1909: The Manhattan Bridge opens. The bridge connects Manhattan and Brooklyn and is maintained by New York City Department of Transportation. The suspension bridge was designed by Leon Moisseiff and construction began in 1901 and was finished in 1912, although the incomplete bridge opened on this date. Two other suspension bridges crossed the East River and this was the third and last built. The upper level was originally used for streetcars and the original walkway on the South side of the bridge was closed for forty years, only reopening in 2001. At that time, a dedicated bicycle path was opened on the North side.
It was not until 1910 that the triumphal arch and colonnade were drawn up. This addition was part of Manhattan’s “City Beautiful” campaign. The construction of the addition was not completed until 1915. When the bridge opened on this day, the tracks included did not connect to anything. It wasn’t until 1912 that the streetcars were actually functional. The total length of the bridge is 6,855 feet with the longest span measuring 1,480 feet. Today, there are seven lanes of roadway, 4 tracks for the B, D, N, and Q trains of the New York City Subway, and the pedestrian and bicycle lanes. The towers rise to a height of 336 feet with a clearance of 135 feet below the bridge. This is one of four toll-free bridges spanning the East River and over 70,000 people cross it each day.
Moisseiff’s innovative design was the first suspension bridge to use Josef Melan’s deflection theory for stiffening the deck. Because of this, it is considered to be the forerunner of modern suspension bridges as it served as a model for many of the long-span bridges built in the first half of the last century. It was also the first suspension bridge to use a Warren truss in its design. Moiseiff was born in Riga, Latvia in 1872 and studied at the Baltic Polytechnic Institute for three years before coming to America when he was 19 years old. He was forced to flee because of political pressures against Jews in his home land. He finished his studies at Columbia University and earned a degree from there in civil engineering in 1895.
He gained a national reputation when he designed this bridge. He advocated for all-steel bridges and a move away from the stone and concrete bridge of before. His work with deflection theory, which stated that longer the spans in the bridges, the more flexible they could be, helped to make him famous enough to be called in to help with the Golden Gate Bridge. He was one of the leading suspension bridge builders in the 1920s and 30s and was awarded The Franklin Institute’s Louis E. Levy Medal in 1933. He went on to design the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, one of the most derided bridges in the country. The bridge collapsed just a few months after it was completed in 1940. Moisseiff died in 1943 after suffering a heart attack and the arrogance of his final bridge design, the Tacoma Narrows, overshadowed much of his earlier brilliant work.
Men build too many walls and not enough bridges. – Isaac Newton
Ugly programs are like ugly suspension bridges: they’re much more liable to collapse than pretty ones, because the way humans (especially engineer-humans) perceive beauty is intimately related to our ability to process and understand complexity. – Eric S. Raymond
The bridges you cross before you come to them are over rivers that aren’t there. – Gene Brown
A bridge is only a bridge, a highway in the sky. – Herb Caen
Also on this day: Dupont Plaza Hotel – In 1986, three unhappy employees set the hotel on fire.
Quarters – In 1960, the farthing was finished.
Longacre Square – In 1904, New Year’s Eve was celebrated in NYC.
Granted – In 1600, Queen Elizabeth I granted a Royal Charter.
Long Lease – In 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a lease.
December 30, 1948: Kiss Me, Kate opens on Broadway. Back in 1935, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were married and playing the leads in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Arnold Saint-Subber watched the married couple battle during the run of the play and in 1947 he asked Samuel and Bella Spewack to write a play about what he had seen a decade earlier. Bella asked Cole Porter to write the music and lyrics for the production. The play had a pre-Broadway run at the Shubert Theatre in Philadelphia beginning on December 2 and opened on this night at the New Century Theatre on Broadway. It ran there for 19 months before moving to the Shubert on Broadway and ran for a total of 1,077 performances. The original Broadway production was directed by John Wilson and choreography was by Hanya Holm. The original cast included Alfred Drake, Patricia Morison, Lisa Kirk, Harold Lang, Charles Wood, and Harry Clark.
Cole Porter was born in Indiana in 1891 to one of the wealthiest families in the state. His mother was musically inclined and Cole learned violin at age six and piano at age eight. She dominated the boy’s upbringing. His father was a poet and it is thought his influence came through in the wonderful lyrics his son would later create. The overriding force in the family was J.O. Cole – Cole’s grandfather and purportedly the richest man in Indiana. His dream for his grandson was that he would become a lawyer. The boy was sent off to school in Massachusetts and graduated as valedictorian of his class. As a reward he was sent to Europe. When he returned and entered Yale University, he did so as an English major with a minor in music. He wrote 300 songs while at Yale.
World War I intervened and Porter served in the French Foreign Legion. In 1919, he married a divorcee who was eight years older than he was. She found the marriage advantageous in upholding her social status and he could pose as a heterosexual in a time when homosexuals were not accepted. They remained married until she died in 1954 and seemed devoted to each other. Porter’s success at songwriting was full throttle in the 1920s and 1930s. He was in a serious horseback riding accident in 1937 which left him disabled and in constant pain. His shows in the early 1940s were not quite flops, but did meet with his former success.
And then, Kiss Me, Kate opened. It was his most successful musical ever and the only time one of his shows had over 1,000 performances. It was the first time he wrote the music and lyrics as firmly connected to the script – an integrated musical. In 1949, the first time a Tony Award was presented for Best Musical, it was given to Kiss Me, Kate. But Porter’s life was falling apart. His mother died in 1952 and then his wife died in 1954. After 34 operations on his injured right leg, it had to be amputated in 1958. He lived out the remaining years of his life as a recluse. He died of kidney failure in 1964 at the age of 73.
My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a director.
It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely.
Good authors, too, who once knew better words now only use four-letter words writing prose… anything goes.
Most gentlemen don’t like love, they just like to kick it around. – all from Cole Porter
Also on this day: Once in a Blue Moon – In 1982, the only total eclipse of a blue moon in the entire century took place.
Countess Bathory – In 1610, the Blood Countess was stopped.
Ted on the Loose – In 1977, Ted Bundy once again escaped from prison.
Not So Special – In 1924, Edwin Hubble announced that we were not alone.
Hat Trick – In 1896, the first hat trick during a Stanley Cup playoff game took place.
December 29, 2001: The Mesa Redonda fire takes place in Lima, Peru. Peru is located on the western coast of South America. It is the 19th largest country in the world when comparing the total acreage under the flag. Because of the mountainous terrain, the population is not evenly spread throughout the nation and it is only 41st in terms of population. Of the approximately 31 million people who call it home, almost 9 million live in Lima and almost 10 million live in the greater metropolitan area. While New York City has a similar number of people living there, the Big Apple is less than half the size of Lima which covers 1,032 square miles to New York’s 469 square miles.
Lima has been occupied since pre-Columbian times. It was previously known as Itchyma after the original peoples who settled there. The Inca Empire was in possession of the region prior to the Conquistadors incursion and at that time, a famous oracle known as Limaq (which meant “talker” in the coastal Quechuan language) was built in the Rimac valley. When the Spaniards arrived, they destroyed the oracle and replaced it with their own church, but the name remained. The Spanish language doesn’t easily accommodate stop consonants in the last position of words and they pronounced it as Lima. When they settled there, they created their city on January 6, feast of the Epiphany in the Catholic Church. The feastday commemorates the arrival of the Three Kings and so they named their new city Ciudad de los Reyes or City of the Kings. But the official name was soon forgotten and the city was known as Lima.
Lima became the capital of Peru early on but gained in predominance after the Viceroyalty of Peru accepted the city as the capital of the Spanish holdings. Not only did he sanction Lima as the capital, but set up the Real Audiencia there which was an appellate court in Spain. The translation is literally Royal Audience and not only was the system the court, but the chancellery or office of official diplomatic residence. While the city has grown and flourished, it has not been without problems. The area has been struck by powerful earthquakes several times. These catastrophic events altered the history of the city, but could not take away her power and glory completely. Rebuilding took place, but other areas of South America such as Buenos Aires took over in economic importance.
On this day, a number of vendors at Mesa Redonda were selling fireworks to celebrate the arrival of the new year. The region is located in Central Lima and most of the narrow streets were lined with wooden or adobe houses. Officials realized the danger and Lima declared the shopping area an “emergency zone”. Around 7.30 PM, a spark from a fireworks demonstration landed on a stockpile of fireworks for sale. These exploded and a chain reaction quickly ensued. A “wall of fire” quickly grew and spread and it took several hours to bring it under control. A total of 291 people were killed in the fire with another 134 non-fatal injuries.
I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work. – Neil Armstrong
You may be a redneck if… your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand. – Jeff Foxworthy
Opposites generally create intense chemistry. There are more chances of fireworks when different people are together than similar personalities. – Sonam Kapoor
I love to go get fireworks, even though some of them are illegal. – Carmen Electra
Also on this day: The Awakened One – In 1993, the Tian Tan Buddha was consecrated.
Worst in America – In 1876, the Ashtabula Bridge collapsed.
Ooh-La-La – In 1721, Lady Pompadour was born.
Saintly Departure – In 1170, Thomas Becket was assassinated.
Itty Bitty – In 1959, Richard Feynman gave a speech at Caltech.
* “Incendio-Mesa-Redonda-Daniel-Silva-ganador-courret-2002” by Daniel Silva – Mesa Redonda, Daniel Silva, ganador del 2002. Licensed under GFDL via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Incendio-Mesa-Redonda-Daniel-Silva-ganador-courret-2002.jpg#/media/File:Incendio-Mesa-Redonda-Daniel-Silva-ganador-courret-2002.jpg
December 28, 1835: US forces under Major Francis Dade face Seminole Indians under the command of Micanopy. Dade’s forces numbered 110 men from the 2nd Artillery, 3rd Artillery, and 4th Infantry Regiments. They had one six-pounder gun at their disposal. Micanopy led 180 men. Dade’s men had traveled from Fort Brooke which was located where present-day Tampa is and headed up King Highway to reinforce and resupply Fort King, which was located at present-day Ocala. The region’s Native population had become increasingly upset with US forces which were continually trying to relocated the natives in order to usurp control of the land. Rather than be shipped out west, the Seminoles chose to fight to save their homelands.
Dade was aware that his men might be attacked by Seminoles, but thought it would take place near a river crossing or near more heavily forested land to the south. He had already managed to traverse these areas and was feeling safer. The local terrain could not conceal anyone who was standing or walking. However, it could and did conceal crouched warriors who were able to ambush the US forces. There had been better locations for an ambush, but the Seminole were waiting for Osceola to join them. When he did not appear as scheduled, they attacked without hm.
The Seminole had been watching the US forces move through Florida. They had been marching for five days when they reached what is today, Bushnell, about 25 miles south of Fort King. Suddenly, shots were fired. Stories of the event tell that Dade and half his men were brought down with the first volley. Micanopy was said to have killed Dade with the first shot fired, which was the prearranged sign for the rest of the men to begin their assault. Most of the soldiers were killed quickly and did not even have time to pull their flintlock muskets from under their coats. The Seminoles were victorious and had killed 107 men and wounded two more (one of which died later). They lost three men and five more were wounded.
After the battle, many of the large plantations in the region were burned and the settlers killed. By the end of the month, there was only one house left standing in what is now Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The Seminoles were emboldened and continued to fight for their lands. This attack led to the Second Seminole War which lasted until 1842. The War found Andrew Jackson in charge against Osceola with his vastly undermanned army. The US forces won and the Seminole were evicted with nearly 4,000 Seminole relocated to Indian Territory and only 300 left in the Everglades.
We had been preparing for this more than a year… Just as the day was breaking, we moved out of the swamp into the pine-barren.
I counted, by direction of Jumper, one hundred and eighty warriors. Upon approaching the road, each man chose his position on the west side… About nine o’clock in the morning the command approached… So soon as all the soldiers were opposite… Jumper gave the whoop, Micanopy fired the first rifle, the signal agreed upon, when every Indian arose and fired, which laid upon the ground, dead, more than half the white men.
The cannon was discharged several times, but the men who loaded it were shot down as soon as the smoke cleared away… As we were returning to the swamp supposing all were dead, an Indian came up and said the white men were building a fort of logs. Jumper and myself, with ten warriors, returned.
As we approached, we saw six men behind two logs placed one above another, with the cannon a short distance off… We soon came near, as the balls went over us. They had guns, but no powder, we looked in the boxes afterwards and found they were empty. – Seminole leader Halpatter Tustenuggee, aka Alligator (by white men)
Also on this day: Child’s Play – In 1973, Akron, Ohio stopped their association with Box Car Derby after cheating became rampant.
Neptune – In 1612, Galileo observed the planet Neptune.
Poor Ben – In 1732, an ad for Poor Richard’s Almanack was run in Ben Franklin’s newspaper.
San Francisco Muni – In 1912, the Municipal Railroad in San Francisco opened.
Ex-Vice President – In 1832, John C. Calhoun resigned.
December 27, 1836: The deadliest avalanche in the United Kingdom occurs. Lewes is around seven miles north of the Sussex coast in the county of East Sussex, England. It is in the South East part of England and borders the English Channel. It is less than fifty miles south of London. People have lived there since prehistoric times and the Romans may have built a settlement in the region. Today, around 17,000 people live there and their economy now is very diverse. Beginning in the late 18th century, wines and spirits were distributed from Lewes from the company that is today Harvey & Sons brewery, one of the finest ale producers in England. The town is located amidst the a series of cliffs and Cliffe Hill is on the east side of the town towering 540 feet above sea level.
The winter of 1836-37 was exceptionally severe across all of Great Britain. There was a greater amount of snowfall and gale force winds and freezing temperatures were recorded throughout the island. Between October 1836 and April 1837, many weather records were broken. On December 24, 1836 heavy snow began to fall across South East England. Especially hard hit was the South Downs region where Lewes is located. Strong winds blew the snow around and snowdrifts over ten feet high were reported in some areas of Lewes. The storm deposited a huge amount of snow atop Cliffe Hill and an overhanging cornice was formed on the sheer western edge.
Immediately at the foot of Cliffe Hill stood Boulder Row. This was a row of seven flimsy cottages where workers and their families lived. The exact number of people living there remains unknown, but it is said that 15 people were in their homes on this terrible day. The evening before, snow was seen falling from the top of the hill and the families were advised to leave, but they did not heed the warning. On this Tuesday morning, at 10.15 AM, the cornice collapsed and an avalanche headed immediately for Boulder Row. An eyewitness reported the snow hit at the base and launched the shabby houses upward before breaking over the remnants like a giant wave. There was nothing left of the area but a huge mound of pure white snow.
An immediate rescue effort was made by the townspeople who were able to pull seven survivors from freezing death. But hypothermia or suffocation overtook eight others whose bodies were eventually recovered. The eight people’s names are recorded inside the church of South Mailing parish where they were buried. A few prominent townspeople set up a fund to help the survivors. Snowdrop Inn, a pub, was built at the location of Boulder Row soon after the disaster and is still in business today. Fanny Boakes (two years old at the time) was one of the survivors and the dress she was wearing at the time is now shown at the Anne of Cleves House museum.
We hear the rain fall, but not the snow. Bitter grief is loud, calm grief is silent. – Berthold Auerbach
Snow. White, white, white, soft and clean, and maddening shapes, with the whole world in them. – Alfred Stieglitz
But where are the snows of last year? – Francois Rabelais
No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible. – Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
Also on this day: Hagia Sophia – In 537, the Hagia Sophia was officially dedicated.
Coming into Port – In 1703, the Methuen Treaty was signed by Portugal and England.
Play Nice – In 1512, the Laws of Burgos were issued.
Man Cave – In 1966, the Cave of Swallows was discovered.
Religious Freedom – In 1657, the Flushing Remonstrance was signed.
December 26, 1811: The Richmond Theatre fire takes place. The theater was located on Broad Street between what is now Twelfth and College Streets in Richmond, Virginia. Prior to the theater being built there, it was the first Academy of Fine Arts and Sciences in America. After it became a theater, the area was known as “The Theatre Square” as coined by Chevalier Quesnay de Beaurepaire who was a French officer who served in the American Revolutionary War. The first theater was a barn-like building and opened on October 10, 1786 with a performance of School for Scandal. The building was also used for three weeks in 1788 by the Virginia Ratifying Convention.
On this date, a benefit performance was held for Alexander Placide and his daughter. The night’s entertainment was a double bill with the first performance being a play entitled The Father, or Family Feuds. Following that, a pantomime was scheduled which was called Raymond and Agness, or The Bleeding Nun. The benefit had originally been scheduled for December 23 but there was need to postpone it after Mrs. Poe (Edgar Allen Poe’s mother and an earlier benefactor of the theater) tragic death earlier in the month as well as Placide’s own illness, and inclement weather. Because of the holidays, this was the last scheduled performance of the year and the theater was packed. There were 598 people in attendance, 80 of them children.
The play went well and the pantomime began immediately afterward. This was the performance the children were more interested in. The first act went well and as the curtain fell, a chandelier was hoisted toward the ceiling with the flame still lit. The light became entangled in the cords used to lift it and the chandelier came into contact with part of the scenery used towards the front of the production. The boy who was operating the cords noticed the flames and immediately fled the building. There were a series of 35 hanging scene pieces and the flame spread, jumping from one to the next. There were other hanging pieces which also were set alight by the quickly spreading fire.
The curtain hid the flames from the audience but soon it was apparent the theater was on fire. There were several exits but they weren’t well known. A side exit was used by the players and orchestra, but few knew of it and there was a balcony exit that was a clear way out. But in the panic of spreading fire, many were pushed or fell as they attempted to exit and this blocked the pathway to safety. Some jumped from windows to escape but others congregated there too frightened to leap to safety. There were a total of 72 deaths, mostly women. Virginia’s governor, George William Smith was among the dead as was the former senator, Abraham B. Venable. The theater was rebuilt at a different location in 1819 because the exact location was used to build the Monumental Church as a commemoration to the victims.
I believe in the theater; I believe in it as the first glamorizer of thought. It restores dramatic dynamics and their relations to life size. – Laurence Olivier
All of the arts, poetry, music, ritual, the visible arts, the theater, must singly and together create the most comprehensive art of all, a humanized society, and its masterpiece, free man. – Bernard Berenson
Theater is, of course, a reflection of life. Maybe we have to improve life before we can hope to improve theater. – William Ralph Inge
Promises are like crying babies in a theater, they should be carried out at once. – Norman Vincent Peale
Also on this day: Kwanzaa – In 1966, the first Kwanzaa was celebrated.
Searching – In 1986, Search for Tomorrow went off the air after more than 35 years.
Zounds! Sounds! – In 1933, a patent was granted for FM radio.
Storming Scandinavia – In 2011, Cyclone Dagmar made landfall.
Thespis – In 1871, Thispis opened at the Gaiety Theatre of London.
December 25, 354: The earliest record of Christmas is included in the Chronography of 354. Also called the Calendar of 354, it was an illuminated manuscript made for Valentinus, a Roman Christian. The original no longer exists, but at least fragments survived through Carolingian times. At that point, many copies of the calendar were created, some with and others without the illustrations. There were sixteen sections to the entire codex which include Part 6 which was the actual calendar for the year. Also included were images of the emperors, images of the seven planets, the signs of the zodiac, lists of important Roman politicians, and in Part 12, commemoration dates for martyrs. Included in this section was the Latin phrase, “VIII kal. Ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae” which translates to “Eighth day before the kalends of January (which would be December 25), Birth of Christ in Bethlehem Judea”.
The early Christian ecclesiastical calendar usurped many pre-Christian festivals. The Roman feast of Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra for the Zoroastrian calendar were both considered in the creation of the feastday known as Christmas. The Roman celebration of the birth of Jesus was celebrated in December, closer to the older celebration of Saturnalia. However, the Eastern Orthodoxy chose to celebrate the event in connection with the Epiphany on January 6. This is the date on which Christians commemorate the arrival of the Three Kings or Three Wise Men and their gifts to honor the newly born King. The method of celebration of Christmas has morphed over time and some Christians have even gone so far as to ban it citing concerns with paganism and no Biblical authentication.
Before Christ was born and even into the early Christian era, there have been celebrations revolving around the winter solstice. These festivals were often the most popular of any held through the year. There may be a few reasons for this. First of all, people were free to celebrate as the work in the fields was greatly reduced because of the seasonal nature of agriculture. Another reason for the popularity of the celebrations was the simple fact that the weather was bound to begin improving, at least in regards to the amount of daylight available. In a time before electric lighting, the gloom of winter was not easily cast aside and even a few more minutes of daylight was appreciated. Parties included a Yule log and special foods.
The reason for making December 25 be Christmas is debatable, but some theories exist. Perhaps the date was chosen to Christianize the Roman pagan festival of the “birthday of the Unconquered Sun” which was begun by Roman Emperor Aurelian and supported by Constantine. A Syrian bishop from the 12th century believed the date was simply an overwriting of the already Pagan celebration for the birthday of the Sun which early Christians also participated in. Rather than try to get rid of a good party date, early Church authorities simply changed the meaning of the festival. This has been hotly repudiated by other Christians over the centuries. However the date was decided, Merry Christmas to all.
It was the Yuletide, that men call Christmas, though they know in their hearts it is older than Bethlehem and Babylon, older than Memphis and Mankind. – H. P. Lovecraft
A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. – Garrison Keillor
There has been only one Christmas — the rest are anniversaries. – W. J. Cameron
From a commercial point of view, if Christmas did not exist it would be necessary to invent it. – Katharine Whitehorn
Also on this day: Mastodons – In 1801, the first complete mastodon skeleton was discovered.
Scone Stone – In 1950, the Stone of Scone was stolen.
It Is Finished – In 1991, the dissolution of the USSR was completed.
Arrival – In 1941, Admiral Nimitz arrived at Pearl Harbor.
White House Visitors – In 1974, Marshall Fields invited himself to the White House.
December 24, 1955: A Sears department store ad contains a misprint. The Colorado Springs newspaper ran an advertisement telling children they could telephone Santa Claus and speak with the big guy. The number included was not correct and instead was the number for the Colorado Springs Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Harry Shoup was in charge that fateful night and asked his staff to pass on a message to the children. They were to tell the kids Santa’s “current location”. A tradition began with a simple misprint and one understanding Colonel. In 1958, there was a name change and CONAD became the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command.
Today, with the help of volunteer elves, NORAD responds to about 40 telephone calls per hour and about answers about 12,000 emails. There are more than 70,000 phone calls made from over 200 countries during a 25 hour period which lasts from 2 AM on December 24 and ends on December 25 at 3 AM MST. Google Analytics was first implemented in 2007 and they have helped analyze the traffic at the NORAD Tracks Santa website. This has helped to gather together the correct number of volunteer staffing, telephone lines, and computer equipment. The volunteers are both military and civilian. All Santa’s helpers ensure that kids around the world get a chance to keep an eye out for Santa.
Beginning in the 1950s and up to 1996, the NORAD Tracks Santa program used telephone hotlines, newspapers, radios, phonograph records, and television to keep interested children posted. Even now, many television weather reports on Christmas Eve include an update on Santa’s position. Beginning in 1997, Santa became tech savvy and had his own website. Both mobile media and social media help to pass along information on Santa’s trip around the world. Between 2004 and 2009, people wishing to do so could download Google Earth and track Santa using that application.
NORAD maintains the website year round but if you visit it between January and November 30, a message asks you to return on December 1. During December, NORAD’s site is filled with many features. And then, on Christmas Eve, NORAD lets you watch Santa fly his sleigh full of presents around the globe. Videos are generally updated each hour, as Santa enters a new time zone’s midnight hour. There are images of Santa flying over famous landmarks in that zone often with celebrity voice overs. In 2013, there were 19.58 million unique visitors on Christmas Eve and 1,200 volunteers answered 117,371 calls. There were 146,307 Twitter followers and 1.45 million “likes” from Facebook.
Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six or seven. – W. C. Fields
“In all this world there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child,” says good old Santa Claus; and if he had his way the children would all be beautiful, for all would be happy. – L. Frank Baum
Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Clause. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don’t, who will? – Jon Bon Jovi
Santa is very jolly because he knows where all the bad girls live. – Dennis Miller
Also on this day: The South Shall Rise Again – In 1865, six men began the KKK, then a simple social club.
Christmas – In 1777, James Cook discovered an uninhabited island in the Pacific.
Shhhhhh! – In 1818, Silent Night was written.
Eggnog Riot – In 1826, a riot broke out at West Point.
Italian Hall Disaster – In 1913, the hall caught fire during a Christmas party.
December 23, 1997: Festivus is celebrated on television. Editor and author Daniel O’Keefe’s family celebrated Festivus as early as 1966 but in their family, the holiday was celebrated as family tensions rose and any time between December and May. In 1982, O’Keefe wrote a book dealing with rituals and the social significance found in them, a theme relevant to his family’s made-up holiday. The name of the holiday is not based on the Latin for festival which is also festivus. The first Festivus was celebrated in February 1966 when O’Keefe went out on his first date with the woman who would eventually become his wife. Today, the holiday is celebrated each year on December 23 because his son wrote an episode on this holiday for Seinfeld.
“The Strike” was written by Daniel and his son, Dan, O’Keefe and aired on December 18, 1997. It was the 166th episode of the NBC sitcom and appeared in the last season of Seinfeld’s ten year run. In the episode, Jerry, George, and Elaine discussed the holiday which George’s father had created – Festivus. Kramer learned of the holiday when George’s father visited the bagel shop where Kramer had recently returned to work and described the alternative to Christmas. He had created the holiday as a protest to the commercialization of Christmas.
Meanwhile, George didn’t wish to buy any presents and created a fake charity, The Human Fund. George’s boss donated $20,000 to the fund and when he found out that is wasn’t a true charity, questioned George. George, who had a knack for turning something a little bit bad into something awful, decided to use Festivus as his excuse and explained that he was fearful of repercussions due to his beliefs. George’s boss didn’t actually buy the idea and went with George to his home to see the holiday celebration in action. Kramer became upset when his boss didn’t give him time off from work for his Festivus celebrations and went out on strike. He was seen picketing the bagel shop. George convinced his friends to help him out and they had a Festivus celebration in order to show George’s boss how real the holiday was.
According to Seinfeld, part of the celebration was the “Airing of Grievances” which took place while eating dinner. Each person got to tell the others how they have disappointed the raconteur during the past year. After dinner, the “Feats of Strength” were performed and if the head of the household could be pinned, the holiday ended. A Festivus pole was an aluminum pole of specific tensile strength which was unadorned and dinner was a meatloaf concoction served on a bed of lettuce. None of these were part of the original O’Keefe celebration. Festivus can be celebrated today and many people are able to have a bit of fun on December 23 thanks to the sitcom.
The real symbol of the holiday was a clock that my dad put in a bag and nailed to the wall every year…I don’t know why, I don’t know what it means, he would never tell me. He would always say, ‘That’s not for you to know.’ – Dan O’Keefe
Festivus yes! Bagels no! – Cosmo Kramer
It’s Festivus… for the rest of us! – Frank Costanza
Kramer: Is there a tree?
Frank: No. Instead, there’s a pole. Requires no decoration. I find tinsel distracting.
Also on this day: Jolly Old Elf – In 1823, Twas the Night Before Christmas was first published.
Survivor, The Real Story – In 1972, the Andes flight disaster finally came to an end.
Tokyo Tower – In 1958, Tokyo Tower was dedicated.
Around the World in Nine Days – In 1986, the Voyager landed at Edwards Air Force Base and completed a non-stop trip around the world.
Another One Bites the Dust – In 679, King Dagobert II was murdered.
December 22, 1944: General Anthony McAuliffe responds to an order for surrender. The Battle of the Bulge was a German offensive campaign during World War II. The battle line was through the dense forests of the Ardennes region of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg. Allied forces were caught completely off guard and woefully out gunned. At the time of the initial attack, the German forces were about 200,000 strong while the Allies had about 83,000 men with which to defend their positions. The Allies were able to resupply their lines with men and munitions while the Germans were not able to move in as many men. The American forces took the brunt of the action and suffered the most casualties at 89,500 with 19,000 killed and 47,500 wounded. Another 23,000 Americans were captured or missing.
Allied forces were led by Dwight Eisenhower and Bernard Montgomery from Britain. Omar Bradley, Courtney Hodges, and George Patton were in command of various US Army division while McAuliffe was in charge of the 101st Airborn Division. The German assault began on December 16, 1944 at 5.30 AM when the Germans began a 90 minute artillery barrage in which they launched 1,600 artillery pieces across an 80 mile front. Heavy snowstorms made the battle even more chaotic. The snows kept the Allied planes grounded but it also caused severe traffic jams for the Germans who were then faced with shortages on their front lines.
The Siege of Bastogne is often credited as the point at which the German advance was stopped. The battle at Eisenborn Ridge was another major component of the Battle of the Bulge and may have been even more of a turning point. It was at the Siege of Bastogne, fought between December 20-27, 1944, where General McAuliffe was in charge, supported by William Roberts and Creighton Abrams. The Germans were driving for the harbor at Antwerp in order to stop supply lines for the Allies. The Allies were determined to keep the supply lines open as they desperately needed the men and supplies to combat the still superior German forces.
On this day, under a flag of truce, a German major, lieutenant, and two enlisted men entered the American lines southeast of Bastogne. They carried a message from General von Lüttwitz to General McAuliffe. The message follows in the quotes and demanded a surrender of the US troops. McAuliffe read the message and issued a one word response. Others around him tried to sweeten the response but instead, decided it was the best response possible and so they sent a message to the German Commander. NUTS! And signed it from the American Commander. When the German major received and read the message, he was confused so an American translated it for him, “In plain English? Go to hell.” The Americans eventually won the Siege of Bastogne and the Allies were victorious in the Battle of the Bulge which was called a German operational failure.
To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity. – The German Commander.
Also on this day: March to the Sea – In 1864, General Sherman finished his march into Savannah, Georgia.
First PM – In 1885, Ito Hirobumi became the first Prime Minister of Japan.
Fly Ash – In 2008, the TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant’s dike collapsed.
Under Water – In 1937, The Lincoln Tunnel in NYC was opened.
Heavens! – In 1891, Brucia was discovered.