This Day in History – December 25 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight


NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.




1914 – Christmas Day Truce.

This unofficial cease-fire and truce occurred during the early months of WWI between the soldiers of the warring nations of Germany and England. By most accounts it was the warlike Germans who initiated it. The first signs began on Christmas Eve when German soldiers put lit candles and small Christmas trees on the parapets of their trenches. They sang Christmas carols and shouted “Merry Christmas” across no-man’s land to the English. Soon the British were serenading the Germans with their own carols. This wasn’t in an isolated spot but rather up and down the whole line where Germans and English were facing one another.

The next day rifle and cannon fire ceased and men began cautiously exposing themselves and then advancing unarmed forward in no-man’s land. It soon became a joyous celebration of peace and goodwill as men from both sides gathered. Small gifts in the form of tobacco, Schnapps, and insignias from uniforms were exchanged. They communicated friendship despite a lack of a common language. At one point an English barber was seen giving a German soldier a haircut. Someone had a ball and a soccer game began. Hats and equipment were laid out to mark the boundaries of the field. The outcome has never been verified but many believe the Germans won the game 3-2. One English soldier, several miles behind the front lines but still accustomed to constant shelling and noise, noted the eeriness of the silence. On a sadder note, both sides took advantage of the truce to recover and bury their unattended dead.

Not everybody favored the truce, or as upper command saw it, fraternization with the enemy. To career military officers war was their business and an unofficial ceasefire was a threat to their livelihood. Fighting for peace can’t be justified if peace breaks out on its own. Or as Colonel Flagg  stated in a M*A*S*H* episode, “If it wasn’t for war, you won’t know what peace was.” Worried about maintaining a proper fighting spirit, high command on both sides issued threats of harsh disciplinary action if such an event should occur again.

For one brief moment in The War To End All War sanity prevailed.


1941 – Fall of Hong Kong.

On December 8th Japanese forces attacked the British colony of Hong Kong. The Royal Air Force was destroyed on the ground the first day leaving the colony defenseless from the air. After an eighteen day battle, the 15,000 British and Canadians defenders were overwhelmed and defeated. Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese Army until August 15th, 1945 when it was returned to British rule.

Hong Kong is under siege again. In 1941 thousands of the vanquished perished doing forced labor in POW camps. I hope that isn’t a set precedent for whatever may follow now.


1962 – The film “To Kill a Mockingbird” released.

Based on a novel by Harper Lee, the movie starring Gregory Peck won three Academy Awards.

I saw the movie some time in the spring of 1963. I was about halfway through my thirteen months of isolation at the Holiday Beach Communication Station on Kodiak Island. We had our own 16mm movie projector and we would get movies from the main base. Two on Monday, two on Wednesday, and three on Friday. On Fridays, for those not on watch, all three movies would be watched. On Saturdays the good ones would be viewed a second time. Then on Sundays instead of rewinding the reels of film, we would watch the really bad movies run backwards. If that’s not a definition of boredom I don’t know what is. I saw close to four hundred movies during those thirteen months, most of them bad. The good ones still stand out. “To Kill a Mockingbird” was one of those. 



1890 – Robert Ripley.

Cartoonist and writer. He was most famous for creating “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!,” a cartoon that depicted weird and fascinating events from around the world. Ripley became popular when his cartoons were syndicated in the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst. Adding to that popularity was that he included items and ideas sent in by readers. He had a researcher who traveled around to validate the authenticity of subjects submitted. Ripley was also a world-wide traveler and collected weird data from exotic places. One of his cartoons noted that America did not have a national anthem which started the push to adopt the Star Spangled Banner to fill that void. Charles Schultz submitted a cartoon about a weird dog to Ripley. It is believed to be the genesis of the character Snoopy in the “Peanuts” comic strip. Ripley also had a successful radio program and was just branching out into television in the early days of that medium when he died of a heart attack.

Before my time although I do have a vague memory of Ripley’s cartoons.


1925 – Christmas Tinto.

African National Congress leader. Named for the day of his birth, Tinto battled against apartheid in South Africa from an early age. His efforts to defeat racism drew the ire of the security police and he served two prison terms and was detained many more times. He had the nickname of Com T in his home area. According to South Africa’s Independent Online, this is what one of his followers said of him: “Com T understood whites were not the enemy. Instead he directed us all to dedicate our energies to destroy apartheid.” Tinto lived to see his dream of apartheid being wiped out in South Africa.

One theme of Christmas is “Peace on earth, good will toward man.” I think Christmas Tinto was aptly named.

Oh yeah, one other birthday.


4 BC – Jesus.

I won’t summarize because many of you know the story. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!



At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at



The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers.



We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (Nativity Scene Art) – gst/

* Christmas Day Truce (video) – Kresha Kopik /

* Gregory Peck (video) – Eyes On Cinema /

* Atticus Finch (video) –American Film Institute /

* Robert Ripley (video) – American Experience & The New School /

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio /



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