December 25, in the 753rd year since the founding of Rome – or so Dionysius Exiguus, working in AD 525, would have us believe – Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem, in what is now the West Bank, Palestinian Territories.
Based on historical and astronomical evidence, and even passages in the Gospels themselves, this date is almost certainly incorrect. Besides, Jesus appears to be one of the last people who would be concerned about people noticing his birthday. He’d rather we were good to each other.
Both Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and its companion series Xena: Warrior Princess had Christmas episodes, despite taking place centuries before the birth of Christ. Hercules' episode, "A Star to Guide Them," was an allegory about the Nativity story and King Herod's order of "The Slaughter of the Innocents." Xena's series was frequently much darker than Hercules', but "A Solstice Carol," full of references to things that would become associated with Christmas in the 19th and 20th Centuries A.D., was really, really campy. Both were set around the time of the Winter Solstice, which usually falls on December 22 -- possibly the reason the early Church set Christmas on December 25, given the difference between the Julian Calendar then in effect and the Gregorian Calendar being used now.
Christmas AD 800: Charles the Great (a.k.a. Charles Le Magne, Charlemagne and Carolus Magnus) is crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Rome. Not that there was much about him that was holy.
Christmas 1000: The Kingdom of Hungary is founded by King Stephen I.
Christmas 1065: Westminster Abbey is consecrated in London. But the King of England, Edward the Confessor, who ordered and funded its building, is too ill to attend, and dies early the next year. Which leads to…
Christmas 1066: William, Duke of Normandy, a.k.a. William the Bastard and William the Conqueror, is crowned King William I of England at Westminster Abbey.
As the saying goes, never go into battle with a man called “the Bastard” or “the Conqueror,” because, chances are, he earned those nicknames.
Christmas 1183: Not the best of Christmases for King Henry II, his Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their sons, the princes Richard, Geoffrey and John. The film is The Lion In Winter, and they are played by the following: Henry by Peter O'Toole, Eleanor by Katherine Hepburn, the future King Richard I (the Lionhearted) by Anthony Hopkins in his first major film role, Geoffrey by John Castle (not to be confused with Godfather actor John Cazale), and the future Magna Carta signer King John by Nigel Terry (who would be a much better King, Arthur, in Excalibur).
On an episode of The West Wing, President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) confirms that this is his favorite movie of all time. Though, uncharacteristically, the New Hampshire professor turned head of state gets Henry's quote wrong: "I've snapped and plotted all my life. There's no other way to be alive, King, and 50 all at once."
Christmas 1635: Samuel de Champlain, the explorer known as “the Father of New France,” dies at the city he founded, Quebec.
Christmas 1642: Isaac Newton is born in Wolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, in the north of England. And, from what I've heard of his personality, Sir Isaac could be considered, as they say in English "football," a Dirty Northern Bastard. In other words, if you messed with him, clearly (Don't say it, Mike!) you didn't understand (Don't say it!) the gravity of the situation. (He said it... )
Christmas 1776: George Washington leads the Continental Army across the Delaware River, attacks the Hessians on the New Jersey side, and wins the Battle of Trenton, thus keeping the Patriot cause alive in the War of the American Revolution.
Christmas 1818: “Silent Night” is first performed, at (appropriately enough) the Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria. Father Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics (in German: “Stille Nacht”), and Franz Gruber composed the melody.
Christmas 1821: Clara Barton is born in Oxford, Massachusetts, outside Worcester. She goes on to found the American Red Cross.
Christmas 1822: Clement Clarke Moore, a theologian in New York, is asked by his children if there are any books about Santa Claus. He decides to find out, but discovers that no bookstore in town has any such book. So he writes his own version of the story, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which establishes so much of the Santa Claus legend that we know today. The story is published the following year. Moore was born in 1779 and lived until 1863.
Christmas 1826: The Eggnog Riot, a.k.a. the Grog Mutiny, takes place at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Among the cadets who took part, but was not punished, was Jefferson Davis. Twenty were court-martialed.
No. I am not making that up. There was an Eggnog Riot at West Point.
Christmas 1843: In London, moneylender Ebenezer Scrooge has a change of heart. Instead of treating it with a cry of “Bah, humbug!” he accepts Christmas the way those around him do, with the words of his employee Bob Crachit’s small, handicapped son Tim: “God bless us, every one!” The story is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
Christmas 1856: James Francis Galvin is born in St. Louis. The Hall of Fame pitcher was nicknamed “Pud” because he “reduced hitters to pudding.” No word on whether it was figgy pudding. He won 365 games -- topped by only 4 pitchers ever -- for the Buffalo Bisons (who went out of business in 1885) and the Pittsburgh team that would be renamed the Pirates before he retired, in a career that lasted from 1875 to 1892, curiously stopped right before the distance from home plate to the pitcher's mound was extended from 50 feet to 60 feet, 6 inches, thus making it harder on pitchers. He was poor and couldn't afford to take care of himself, and died in 1902. he was only 45 years old.
Christmas 1867: Wayne Newton makes his second appearance as young singer Andy Walker on Bonanza, in an episode titled “A Christmas Story.” Jack Oakie plays his uncle and manager, who tries to con Hoss Cartwright (Dan Blocker) out of the money he's trying to raise for an orphanage in Virginia City, Nevada. But Andy is on to his uncle, and there’s a Dickensian twist to the ensuing Christmas party at the Ponderosa Ranch.
Bonanza episodes took place 99 years in the past -- established since a gravestone in a 1967 episode showed a date of death of 1868. It's odd that, in the supposedly progressive 1960s, the 3 most progressive TV shows were Bonanza, which took place nearly a century in the past; Star Trek, which took place 3 centuries in the future; and The Twilight Zone, which, as Rod Serling's narration suggested, took place in "another dimension." As Trek creator Gene Roddenberry remarked, it was easier to get an allegory about a problem with current American life on television if it wasn't depicting current American life -- or even life on Earth at all.
None of the 5 Star Trek TV series yet produced ever had a Christmas episode, although there was a Christmas scene in a fantasy sequence in the film Star Trek: Generations.
Christmas 1870: Chaja “Helena” Rubinstein is born in Krakow, Poland. She becomes a cosmetics tycoon.
Christmas 1875: “Young Tom Morris,” early golf legend and the son of an early golf legend known as Old Tom Morris, dies in his native St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland. He is only 24. He had recently played a match in terrible weather, and probably caught pneumonia. Although it would be a Scotsman, Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, it would be decades before it could have saved Young Tom, who had also recently lost his wife and child in childbirth.
Christmas 1876: Muhammad Ali Jinnah is born in Karachi, British India. He becomes the founder of the nation of Pakistan.
Christmas 1878: Louis Chevrolet is born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. A pioneer of auto racing, he founded the car company that bears his name. Which may also make his company the source of Eartha Kitt’s Christmas 1953 request: “Santa baby, a ’54 convertible, too, light blue.”
Christmas 1884: Evelyn Nesbit is born in Tarentum, Pennsylvania. She became a popular Broadway actress after getting on the “casting couch” of architect, and friend of theater producers, Stanford White. After marrying playboy Harry Thaw, a fellow Pittsburgher, she saw Thaw murder White, resulting in “the Trial of the Century,” making her the most familiar woman in America thanks to the era’s “yellow journalism.”
Her life was a disaster after that. Before her death in 1967, she said of the only man she truly loved, “Stanny White died. My fate was worse: I lived.”
Christmas 1887: Conrad Nicholson Hilton is born in Socorro County, New Mexico Territory -- it wouldn't become a State until 1912. Sadly, the hotel icon is now best known for his socialite great-granddaughters, Paris and Nicky.
Also on this day, 125 years ago, Glenfiddich single malt Scotch whiskey is first produced. Merry Christmas, indeed. Of course, this may also bring us back to the subject of the Hilton sisters.
Christmas 1890: Robert LeRoy Ripley is born in Santa Rosa, California. Yes, he was born on a Christmas Day – believe it or not!
Christmas 1899: Humphrey DeForest Bogart is born in Manhattan. Listen, sweetheart, if you don’t have a Merry Christmas, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.
Christmas 1902: Barton MacLane is born in Columbia, South Carolina. Like Bogey, he developed a reputation for playing tough guys.
Christmas 1905: Della Young has just $1.87 – about $34 in today’s money – not enough to buy a Christmas present for her husband Jim. She goes to a woman who buys hair, has her long hair cut, and receives $20, enough money to buy a platinum fob chain to go with the watch that Jim owns and loves. As it turns out, Jim sold the watch, and used the money to buy hair-care products for Della, which, now, she can't use until her hair grows back to a respectable length.
This story was “The Gift of the Magi,” by William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. O. Henry, and is included in his 1906 collection of stories, The Four Million, named for what was then the population of New York City. It has been copied many times, as you'll see below. Supposedly, Porter wrote it at Healy's, which is now Pete's Tavern and claims origination as the Portman Hotel in 1829. It's at 129 East 18th Street at Irving Place, in Manhattan's Gramercy Park.
Christmas 1907: Cabell Calloway III is born in Rochester, New York. “Minnie the Moocher” is not exactly a Christmas carol, but on December 25, Cab Calloway might’ve sung it, “Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho-ho-ho!”
Christmas 1908: Denis Charles Pratt was born in Sutton, Surrey, England, outside London. He was better known as the author Quentin Crisp.
Christmas 1913: Tony Martin is born in San Francisco. A singer and actor, and one of the few surviving entertainers of the 1930s, he starred on the Burns & Allen radio show, and married Alice Faye and Cyd Charisse. He and Charisse were married from 1948 until she died in 2008. He died this past July, at age 98.
Christmas 1914: Upon hearing German soldiers sing Christmas carols in their trench on the Western Front of what was then called The Great War (later World War I), the British soldiers start to do so in theirs. Soon, the men on both sides come out of their trenches, and stop treating each other as enemies for a few hours, exchanging food, drinks, and trinkets. It becomes known as the Christmas Truce.
Legend has it that there was even a soccer game. Sorry, forgot to “speak English” there: A football match. The Germans supposedly beat the English, 3-2. The first time, but not the last, that Englishmen would be defeated by Germans at their national game; but, as Sir Alf Ramsey pointed out before the 1966 World Cup Final, twice, the English (well, the British, and their allies) would beat the Germans at their national game (war), and on their soil no less.
Military historian Andrew Robertshaw says such a truce would have been unthinkable a year later: "This was before the poisoned gas, before aerial bombardment. By the end of 1915, both sides were far too bitter for this to happen again."
Christmas 1924: Submitted for your approval: Rodman Edward Serling is born in Syracuse, New York, and grows up in Binghamton. Rod Serling died in 1975, at age 50, from smoking-induced heart attacks. But he hopes you have a Merry Christmas. He sends you this greeting… from The Twilight Zone. (His opinion of the “Twilight Saga” books and films is unrecorded.)
Christmas 1926: Emperor Yoshihito of Japan dies of a heart attack, brought on by pneumonia. He was only 47. He is succeeded by his son, Emperor Hirohito.
Christmas 1927: Jacob Nelson Fox is born in St. Thomas, Pennsylvania. Nellie Fox, a diminutive but crafty Hall of Fame 2nd baseman, had his Number 2 retired by the Chicago White Sox, whom he led to an American League Pennant in 1959, resulting in his being named the AL's Most Valuable Player. Yankee pitching legend Whitey Ford called him the toughest out he ever faced, and author, radio show host and White Sox fan Jean Shepherd called him his favorite player of all time.
Christmas 1930: Eliot Ness (played by Robert Stack) discovers that an old friend and informant of his, Hap Levinson (who does not appear onscreen) has been shot and killed after playing Santa Claus at a Chicago orphanage. Hap turns out not to be the first victim in a series of killings. Ness finds out what's going on and who's to blame. This was an episode of The Untouchables. Oddly, it did not air anywhere near Christmas, but rather on September 25, 1962.
Christmas 1935: Alvin Neill Jackson is born in Waco, Texas. Al Jackson was not the most accomplished, but was probably the best, player on the early New York Mets, winning 43 games with them from 1962 to 1969, although he was traded before they would win the World Series that last year. This, on top of being with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1959 and 1961, but stuck in the minors in the season in the middle, when they won the World Series.
More hard luck? In 1962, for the Mets, he allowed a hit in the first inning and no-hit the Houston Colt .45s (Astros) the rest of the way. Heck of a way to almost pitch a no-hitter. At least he’s still alive, unlike Nellie Fox, who died of skin cancer in 1975.
Christmas 1937: Arturo Toscanini conducts the NBC Symphony Orchestra on radio for the first time, beginning a tenure that lasts 17 years. His selections include Antonio Vivaldi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Johannes Brahms.
Also on this day, O’Kelly Isley Jr. is born in Cincinnati. One of the singing Isley Brothers.
Christmas 1939: Ralphie Parker actually gets his Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass and this thing which tells time built right in to the stock. (This particular model does not exist in real life.) And doggone it if, but for the grace of God and his glasses, he doesn’t come near to shooting his eye out!
The film is A Christmas Story, and Ralphie is played by Peter Billingsley. Something tells me that, for Christmas 2012, there won't be too many guns, real or toy, given to kids.
Christmas 1944: Jair Ventura Filho is born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Known as Jairzinho, he starred with hometown club Botafogo and the Brazilian national soccer team, and won World Cups for his country in 1962 and 1970.
Christmas 1945: Billy Bailey, co-director of the Bailey Brothers Building & Loan, of Bedford Falls, New York, with his late brother Peter’s son George, loses $8,000 meant for the firm’s accounts. Unable to come up with the money, George runs into one awful occurrence after another, and wishes he’d never been born.
An angel named Clarence Goodbody shows him what the world (or, at least, his home town) would have been like if that had been the case. George changes his mind, and finds that all the people he’d selflessly helped over the years have come to pay him back, to show him that, in the way that matters, he’s “the richest man in town.”
The film is It’s a Wonderful Life, and George is played by James Stewart, Billy by Thomas Wilson, and Clarence by Henry Travers.
On the same day, in real life, Noel Redding is born in Folkestone, Kent, England. He was the guitarist for the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Also, Rick Berman is born in Manhattan. He become the keeper of the Star Trek flame after Gene Roddenberry died, until it was foolishly given to J.J. “Jar-Jar” Abrams.
Ken Stabler is born in Foley, Alabama. “The Snake” quarterbacked the Oakland Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI.
Gary Sandy is born in Dayton, Ohio. Not far from Cincinnati, where he played radio station manager Andy Travis on WKRP in Cincinnati – not to be confused with country singer Randy Travis.
Christmas 1946: Legendary comedian W.C. Fields dies. He might have agreed with quirky singer Jimmy Buffett, born this same day in Pascagoula, Mississippi: “Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame.” Also born on this day, in Stow, Ohio, is football legend Larry Csonka. So is former baseball manager Gene Lamont, in Rockford, Illinois.
Christmas 1947: A man known only as Kris Kringle, hired to work as Santa Claus at the main Macy's store in New York's Herald Square, is committed, and his lawyer, Fred Gailey, can find only one way to get this harmless, if apparently delusional, old man out of the psych ward: By proving to a court that, just as Kris claims, he really is Santa Claus. It works, and Fred wins the heart of Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), who had hired Kris, and her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood, 8 years old at the time of filming but playing 6).
Miracle On 34th Street has been remade in 1973 and 1994. In those versions, Santa was played by Sebastian Cabot and Richard Attenborough, the lawyer by David Hartman and Dylan McDermott (by then starring as a lawyer on The Practice), Mrs. Walker by Jane Alexander and Elizabeth Perkins, and Susan by Suzanne Davidson and Mara Wilson.
For the 1973 version, the lawyer's name was changed to Bill Schafner, and Mrs. Walker's name was changed from Doris to Karen -- definitely not to be confused with the Karen Walker played by Megan Mullaly on Will & Grace! And for the 1994 version, the lawyer is named Bryan Bedford, Mrs. Walker goes back to Doris (or, rather, "Dorey"), and Macy's had refused to give permission to use the name and Gimbel's had gone out of business, so fictional store names had to be used.
Christmas 1948: Barbara Ann Mandrell is born in Houston. She, and her singing sisters Louise and Irlene, were country when country wasn’t cool. And when it was.
Christmas 1949: Mary Elizabeth Spacek is born in Quitman, Texas. “Sissy” Spacek also sang country music, playing Loretta Lynn in the film version of Lynn’s memoir Coal Miner’s Daughter.
Christmas 1950: Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, a surgeon with the U.S. Army at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Uijeongbu, Korea, has to leave a Christmas party there to attend to a wounded soldier in a foxhole. While still wearing his Santa Claus costume. This was on an episode of M*A*S*H. Hawkeye is played by Alan Alda.
On the same day, in real life, four Scottish university students steal the Stone of Scone, a symbol of Scottish heritage, from the coronation chair at Westminster Abbey in London. The klutzy Jocks broke the Stone in two. Incredibly, they managed to get the pieces back to Scotland.
Early the next year, the culprits were caught, and the Stone was returned to Westminster. In 1996, the British government elected to keep the Stone in Scotland, until necessary to crown a new British monarch. So far, Queen Elizabeth II (whose mother was Scottish) remains on the throne, for 60 years now, and the Stone's transport back to Westminster has not been necessary.
Also on this day, Jesus Manuel Marcano Trillo is born in Caripito, Venezuela. A child born on December 25, and named Jesus? He’s better known as Manny Trillo, the second baseman of the 1980 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.
Unfortunately for all of humanity, on the same day, Karl Christian Rove is born in Denver, and grows up to prove himself Christian, literally, in name only.
Christmas 1951: On another episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye pays tribute to the camp's chaplain, 1st Lieutenant (later Captain) Francis Mulcahy (played by William Christopher). And the company clerk, Corporal Walter "Radar" O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff) tells another surgeon, Major Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers) that, on Father Mulcahy's recommendation, he'd written to Charles' mother, and asked her to send something that would remind the down-in-the-dumps Boston Brahmin of happier times. She sent his old toboggan cap, and Charles was overjoyed. This time, Santa was played by Captain B.J. Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell).
Christmas 1952: On yet another episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye, B.J., Major Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit), and Father Mulcahy are called away from Mulcahy’s party for the local orphans, to tend to a wounded soldier. The soldier has no chance, but when Margaret finds a picture of his family in his pocket, B.J. goes back to work, saying, “A family’s Christmas wreaths should be green, not black.”
Despite their efforts, the patient dies at 11:25 PM. Hawkeye, seeing his best friend take it as hard -- clearly thinking of his wife, Peg, and daughter, Erin, back home in the San Francisco suburb of Mill Valley, California -- moves the clock ahead, so that the time of death will read 12:05 AM, December 26. Farrell also wrote and directed this episode. Harry Morgan played the commanding officer, Colonel Sherman Potter… and, in this episode, played Santa Claus.
On yet another episode of M*A*S*H, the MASHers are celebrating Christmas with British soldiers, who tell them of the tradition of the day after Christmas, Boxing Day, which in England is celebrated with two things. Neither of which turns out to be prizefighting, as is found out by Corporal (later Sergeant) Maxwell Q. Klinger (Jamie Farr), a former corpsman who, by this point, has replaced Radar as company clerk. One is noblemen trading places with their servants, to boost morale. The officers and enlisted men do this as well. Potter thinks that's a swell idea. (The other, not mentioned on the show, is nearby "football clubs" playing each other in "derby" matches.)
So Potter becomes company clerk, and names Klinger commanding officer. Hawkeye and B.J. become hospital orderlies. Charles is assigned to be the cook. Then problems arise, and Klinger is in way over his head. And then casualties arrive, and Hawkeye says, "Just this morning, I was an orderly. And now, I'm doing abdominal surgery."
The Korean War lasted 3 years, plus one month. But M*A*S*H had 4 Christmas episodes. Clearly, those British soldiers had to have arrived in the half-hour remaining of Christmas 1952, between the time B.J. lost the battle to save that soldier and midnight. It couldn't be 1950, since it would have been Captain "Trapper" John McIntyre (Wayne Rogers) in B.J.'s place, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) in Potter's, and Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville) in Charles'. And it couldn't be 1951, since Klinger has already replaced Radar as company clerk.
In real life, on Christmas Day 1952, Carol Christine Hilaria Pounder is born in Georgetown, Guyana. She became the actress CCH Pounder. (Like the Yankees’ CC Sabathia, she does not use periods.)
And the Number 1 song in America is the original version of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," by Jimmy Boyd, then about to turn 14, much older than the character he's playing. Once married to "Batgirl" Yvonne Craig, and not to be confused with the actor of the same name who played J. Arthur Crank and Paul the Gorilla on The Electric Company, this Jimmy boyd continued singing and doing standup comedy, often opening for the various members of the Rat Pack in Las Vegas, and died in 2009.
Christmas 1954: Singer Johnny Ace shoots and kills himself backstage at a concert in Houston. He was allegedly playing Russian Roulette and had no intention of killing himself.
But the world of music breaks even, as Annie Lennox is born in Aberdeen, Scotland. With Eurythmics and on her own, she is one of the world’s most beloved living singers.
Christmas 1955: Not having enough money to buy his wife Alice a proper Christmas present, Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden pawns his bowling ball. And on Christmas Eve, he finds Alice has given him a proper bag for his bowling ball. This Honeymooners episode, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” was based on “The Gift of the Magi.” Ralph was played by Jackie Gleason, Alice by Audrey Meadows.
Christmas 1958: Alannah Myles is born in Toronto. Essentially a one-hit wonder, the singer of the 1990 Number 1 hit “Black Velvet” has suffered nerve damage and can barely move now, but she still records.
Someone born this day who moved a bit better was Hanford Dixon, born in Mobile Alabama. The All-Pro cornerback for the Cleveland Browns would bark like a dog at his teammates to get them psyched up, and fans in the bleachers at Cleveland Municipal Stadium would start barking along with him. Soon, he started calling that section the Dawg Pound, and they would respond by wearing dog masks and throwing dog biscuits.
Someone born this day who moved even better still was Rickey Nelson Henley, born in Chicago. His mother, who had married him after singer Eric Hilliard "Ricky" Nelson, remarried and took him to her husband's hometown of Oakland, California, and the boy was renamed Rickey Henley Henderson. A Baseball Hall-of-Famer and by far the all-time leader in stolen bases, Rickey is a legend. Just ask him.
Christmas 1960: Fired after arriving for work late and sloshed, department store Santa Henry Corwin wanders into an alley and finds a bag filled with gifts. The spirit of the holiday is one of the few bright spots in Henry's life, and as he begins handing out the gifts, he realizes the bag is able to produce any gift a recipient requests. After a brief jail stint that ends with Henry changing the mind of his mean, skeptical former boss, he continues handing out gifts.
Soon, one of his giftees points out that Henry has taken nothing from the bag himself. All he wants? To continue playing Santa every year, a wish that's granted when he finds an elf with a reindeer-driven sleigh waiting to whisk him off to the North Pole. This was an episode of The Twilight Zone, titled “Night of the Meek.” Henry was played by Art Carney.
Also on this day, in Mayberry, North Carolina, department store owner and resident Scrooge Ben Weaver demands that Sheriff Andy Taylor lock up local moonshiner Jim Muggins. Muggins' family, as well as Andy's, gather to celebrate the holiday with Sam. After witnessing how Jim and Andy and their broods can turn the jailhouse stay into a warm, inviting celebration, Weaver gets himself arrested so he can be part of the fun, and he ends the holiday by getting a nip of Jim's hooch himself.
This was the only Christmas episode of The Andy Griffith Show, and was titled “The Christmas Story.” Andy was played by Andy Griffith, Deputy (and substitute Santa Claus) Barney Fife by Don Knotts, Ben by Will Wright, and Jim by Sam Edwards.
Christmas 1962, 50 years ago: The film version of Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird premieres, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, and, in their film debuts, 10-year-old Mary Badham (sister of film director John Badham and now an art restorer), William Windom, Alice Ghostley, and, as the mysterious Arthur "Boo" Radley, Robert Duvall.
Christmas 1966: Agents Napoleon Solo snd Illya Kuryakin have to protect Chairman Georgi Koz, a foreign leader, who looks suspiciously like Nikita Khrushchev, at the United Nations. This episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was titled "The Jingle Bells Affair." Solo was played by Robert Vaughn, Kuryakin by David McCallum, and Koz by Akim Tamiroff, who was born in the part of the Russian Empire that is now the former "Soviet republic" of Georgia, but was of Armenian descent.
Christmas 1968: The Apollo 8 astronauts become the first people of Earth to see the far side of the Moon. Also, Helena Christensen is born in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is one of the most heralded models of the last 20 years.
Also, Jim Dowd is born in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Growing up in neighboring Brick, he was the first New Jerseyan to play for the Devils, and remains the only New Jerseyan to have his name on the Stanley Cup, having scored a late winner in Game 2 of the 1995 Finals against the Detroit Red Wings.
Christmas 1969: Baby's First Christmas. Well, mine, anyway. Not that I knew it.
Christmas 1971: The longest game in NFL history was played. The Miami Dolphins beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 24-21, in the 2nd overtime of an AFC Divisional Playoff. It was also the Chiefs’ last game at Kansas City Municipal Stadium, before moving to Arrowhead Stadium.
Also on this day, Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong is born in London. Best known for her song "Thank You" and her guest appearance in Eminem's video "Stan," Dido also sang one of the sexiest songs I've ever heard, "Who Makes You Feel." With her husband, Rohan Gavin, she had her first child, a son named Stanley, in 2011.
Also on this day, Justin Trudeau is born in Montreal to Canada's Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, and his wife Margaret. Two years later to the day, another son would be born to them, Alexandre Trudeau. Both brothers would become journalists, and Justin now serves in Parliament, as his father did before him.
Christmas 1975: Two very different Boston legends are born. Hideki Okajima is a Japanese-born pitcher for the Red Sox, who helped them win the 2007 World Series. And Rob Mariano is born in Canton, Massachusetts. "Boston Rob" continually wore a Red Sox cap while appearing on the CBS series Survivor, and ended up marrying his season's winner, Amber Brkich. Together, they went on to compete on another CBS series, The Amazing Race. They now have 2 children.
Christmas 1976: OSI Agent Steve Austin (Lee Majors), a former Air Force Colonel, test pilot and astronaut, discovers that an OSI project is being tampered with by a modern-day Scrooge. So The Six Million Dollar Man uses his enhancements to create the episode's title, "A Bionic Christmas Carol," and gets the man to mend his ways. Factoring in inflation, the $6 million it cost to "rebuild" Steve would be about $31 million today.
Another superhero, Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter), faces down a saboteur in "The Deadly Toys."
Meanwhile, across the country, in Queens, it's Christmas dinner at the Bunkers' house on All In the Family. Gloria and Mike (Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner) invite David, an old friend of Mike's living in Canada, but choose not to tell Archie and Edith (Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton) that the reason David went to Canada is that he's a draft dodger. Archie had also invited a friend, Pinky Peterson (Eugene Roche), whose son had asked him whether he should accept being drafted into the Army and fight in Vietnam, or run away to Canada. Pinky advised him to obey the law. Pinky's son was killed, making Pinky a "Gold Star Father." When Archie finds out about David, he rants and raves, until Pinky asks if his opinion means anything. Archie, citing Pinky's circumstances, says his opinion means more than anyone else's. Pinky tells his son's story, and offers David the handshake that he says his son would have given. As usual, Archie does not take defeat well.
Christmas 1977: Charlie Chaplin dies as a result of a stroke. The most renowned of all silent-film actors is truly silenced, at age 88.
Christmas, 1978: Bert doesn’t have enough money to buy a Christmas present for Ernie. So he sells his beloved paper-clip collection to Harold "Mr." Hooper, and uses the money to buy a soap dish for Ernie’s beloved Rubber Duckie. But Ernie doesn’t have enough money to buy a present for Bert, either, so he sells his Duckie to Mr. Hooper, and uses the money to buy a cigar box, perfect for storing Bert’s collection.
Then Mr. Hooper comes over and gives them presents: Bert gets his paper clips back, Ernie gets his Duckie back, and the boys tell Mr. Hooper – who’s Jewish, and has been wished a Happy Hanukkah by Bob – that they’re sorry they didn’t get him anything. He tells the boys, “I got the best Christmas present ever: I got to see that everybody got exactly what they wanted.”
The other main plotline of A Sesame Street Christmas was Oscar the Grouch's cruel question to Big Bird: How does big fat Santa Claus get down those skinny chimneys? As it turns out, it doesn't matter how: Apparently, he does it.
Bert was a puppet operated by Frank Oz, Ernie by Muppets creator Jim Henson. Mr. Hooper was played by Will Lee, and Bob by Bob McGrath. And Carroll Spinney played both Big Bird and Oscar, although I think now he only does the voices for them.
Christmas 1982: Chicago Police Detective Neal Washington (Taurean Blacque) tries to make amends with the widow of a liquor store owner that he accidentally killed while trying to foil a robbery. Another, Michael "Mick" Belker (Bruce Weitz), goes undercover as Santa Claus. This episode of Hill Street Blues is titled "Santaclaustrophobia." That title is also used for a 2003 episode of The King of Queens.
Christmas 1989: Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu is overthrown, in the latest chapter of the anti-Communist revolutions of Eastern Europe of that amazing year. He and his wife Elena are executed.
Also on this day, legendary Yankee manager Billy Martin is killed in a drunken-driving crash near his home in Johnson City, New York. He was 61.
On Married... with Children, a takeoff on It's a Wonderful Life is done. Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill) gets shocked into unconsciousness while working on his Christmas lights, and is visited by a rather unlikely guardian angel, played by Sam Kinison. He gets to see what the world would be like if he had never been born. As it turned out, much better for Peg (Katey Sagal). Unable to stand this, Al wants to live again.
Christmas 1990: What would become known as the World Wide Web gets its first trial run. Also on this day, the film Home Alone takes place. Compared to Ceausescu and Martin the year before, the Wet Bandits, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, get off considerably easier, despite being tormented by Kevin McCallister, the child protector of the home they were invading in Shermer, Illinois. Kevin was played by Macaulay Culkin.
Christmas 1991: Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as President of the Soviet Union. He had become the opposite of “a man without a country”: He was, in effect, a one-man country. The next day, the Supreme Soviet dissolved, its last act being to dissolve the Soviet Union itself after 74 years.
Christmas 1993: New York Police Detective Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) is not the first man you would think of to play Santa Claus at a Christmas party, but he does it. James Martinez (Nicholas Turturro) gets his shield, promoting him to Detective. And Detective John Kelly (David Caruso) visits his mother at a nursing home. Her Alzheimer's-affected mind has her going back and forth between seeing her son as the man he is, and also as her husband, also Detective John Kelly, a Detective who'd been killed in the line of duty years earlier. This episode of NYPD Blue was titled "From Hare to Eternity," for a subplot in which Detective Greg Medavoy (Gordon Clapp) discovers that a cat living in the 15th Precinct house has eaten a rabbit he'd wanted to bring home to his kids.
Christmas 1994: Tim Taylor has to tell his son Randy, who wants to spend Christmas at a ski lodge with his friends, “Christmas isn’t about being with people you like! It’s about being with your family!” The show was Home Improvement, Tim was played by Tim Allen, and Randy by Jonathan Taylor Thomas.
"Tim the Tool Man" could use some of Superman's invulnerability. However, on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Big Blue (Dean Cain) has his hands full. "Seasons Greedings" adapts the Superman villain Winslow P. Schott, the Toyman, for the small screen. Instead of the Ben Franklin-ish appearance of the comic book villain, this Toyman, a man fired from his job designing toys, is played by Sherman Hemsley. So he invents toys that spray a substances that make people greedy, and makes adults act like children -- and Kryptonians are not immune. With help from Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher), things get straightened out, Schott sees the error of his ways, and he even gets a date -- who is played by Hemsley's former TV wife, Isabel Sanford. Dick Van Patten (as a Santa), comedian Dom Irrera, and Dean's mother Sharon Thomas Cain also appear.
Christmas 1995: Dean Martin dies of emphysema at age 78. It is unfortunate that one of the leading singers of Christmas songs -- or "Christmas" songs, as I explained in my last entry -- died on a December 25.
Christmas 1996: JonBenet Ramsey is found murdered at her home in Boulder, Colorado. She was 6. Her killer has never been definitively identified. Had she been born a few years later, she likely would have been a child beauty pageant opponent of Alana Thompson, a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo.
Christmas 1997: Denver Pyle, best known as Uncle Jesse on The Dukes of Hazzard, dies of lung cancer at the age of 77.
Meanwhile, back in New York, we find out what Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) did when he, you know, actually worked. He worked at H&H Bagels -- which actually existed, until going out of business in 2012. He and his fellow employees went on strike 12 years earlier, demanding an hourly rage that has now become the New York State minimum wage. Kramer goes back to work, but soon quits.
The Seinfeld gang's, uh, friend, dentist Tim Whatley (Bryan Cranston), hosts a Hanukkah party. Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who has an on-again-off-again relationship with him, can't believe Tim is still Jewish. Jerry Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld) says, "It's a breeze without the parents." Jerry had previously believed (and may still have believed, at this point) that Watley had converted just so he could tell Jewish jokes and use Yiddish words with impunity. Asked, "This offends you as a Jew?" Jerry says, "No, it offends me as a comedian!" And George Costanza (Jason Alexander) has to deal with his father Frank (Jerry Stiller) reviving, upon urgig from Kramer, his former, noncommercial December holiday. "This is the best Festivus ever!" he yells during "The Feats of Strength."
Christmas 1998: Just Shoot Me! airs "How the Finch Stole Christmas," narrated by Kelsey Grammer, who uses his basso profundo voice to sing "You're a Mean One, Mr. Finch." But Dennis Finch (David Spade) has (roughly) the same thing happen to him that the Grinch did. There are also references to It's a Wonderful Life and, with Elliot DiMauro (Enrico Colantoni) looking a lot lot ol' Chuck thanks to his bald head and his shirt, A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Christmas 1999: White House Director of Communications Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) discovers that a homeless man, whom he'd given a winter coat, has died, and is a Korean War veteran. Toby uses his position to get him a military funeral and burial at Arlington National Cemetery. President Bartlet (Martin Sheen, as stated earlier) isn't happy about how it was done, but allows it. His secretary, Delores Landingham (Kathryn Joosten), attends the funeral, and tells Toby that her late husband had also served in the Korean War, and that their twin sons had been killed in Vietnam -- on Christmas Eve, 1970. (As far as I know, their names were never mentioned on The West Wing.)
Christmas 2000: A darker episode of The West Wing, telling of how Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman was dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, after being the person most seriously hurt in the recent assassination attempt on President Bartlet. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma appears as himself, and his performance triggers the memory of the police and ambulance sirens from the attempt. Bradley Whitford won an Emmy for playing Josh in this episode. Near the end of it, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer) tells Josh the story about the man who falls into a hole, and puts Josh at ease by saying, "As long as I got a job, you got a job."
Christmas 2001: Or, rather, 2 days before. A Congressional hearing into whether President Bartlet committed any crimes in keeping his multiple sclerosis from the public focuses on Leo, who flashes back to the first Bartlet campaign. Before a shocking truth can be revealed, the Republican Counsel on the committee, Cliff Calley (Mark Feuerstein), recommends that they break for Christmas. This buys time for a solution, and both the President and Leo keep their jobs.
Christmas 2002: Now re-elected -- it was never explained on the show why Presidential elections were now taking place in even-numbered non-leap years -- Bartlet has an old problem crop up, as reporter Danny Concannon (Timothy Busfield), who has a flirtatious relationship with White House Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney), arrives in a Santa Claus suit, and tells her he knows about the assassination of a foreign defense minister (and brother of the prime minister) who ran a terrorist group that intended to blow up the Golden Gate Bridge -- except that, in West Wing World, "their 9/11" was prevented. Meanwhile, we discover that Toby was born 2 days before Christmas 1954, and his father, Julius "Julie" Ziegler (Jerry Adler), an ex-con due to working for the Jewish organized-crime outfit Murder, Incorporated, visits, and they have to tie up loose ends.
Christmas 2005: The Jeffersonian Institute in Washington is quarantined due to an outbreak of Valley Fever. This forces Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) to focus on a murder. Also, the Jeffersonian gang finds out that Billy Gibbons of the band ZZ Top (who plays a fictional version of himself) is the father of one of their own, Dr. Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin). This episode of Bones is titled "The Man in the Fallout Shelter."
Christmas 2006: James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, dies of pneumonia. He was 73.
Christmas 2008: For the first time, NCIS airs a Christmas episode. The Gibbs Team is asked to investigate a long-ago murder, of a sailor whose death certificate had been signed by Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum). Guest stars include Peter Coyote, Kay Lenz, and Eric Stonestreet, in the role that likely got him hired for Modern Family.
Also on this day, in real life, Eartha Kitt dies. The singer of “Santa Baby” and one of 3 women to play Catwoman on the 1960s “Batman” series apparently had used up her 9th life, but what a life it was.
Christmas 2012: Mystery writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) and New York Police Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) spend their first Christmas together as a couple, after finding out who killed a man dressed as Santa Claus, on Castle.
May your days be merry and bright. God bless us, every one. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. Sleep in heavenly peace.