Saturday, December 24, 2016

Tales of Christmas Past

Some of the following actually happened, while some is taken from TV shows and movies.

Incidentally, if you can find out what was the 1st TV show to have a Christmas-themed episode, let me know, because I can't find it.


December 25, in the 753rd year since the founding of the city of Rome – or so Dionysius Exiguus, working in AD 525, would have us believe – Yeshua ben Yoseph was born in Bethlehem, in what is now the West Bank, Palestinian Territories. In Greek, his name (of which Joshua and Isaiah are also derivatives) became "Jesus." "Christ" is also a Greek word: "Christos" means "the anointed one."


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 in human history 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 falls on December 21 or 22 -- which is possibly the reason that 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 336: The 1st recorded Christmas celebration in Rome occurs. Emperor Constantine the Great had legalized Christianity with the Edict of Milan in 313, and called the Council of Nicaea in 325.

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 us 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," because he's probably got a chip on his shoulder. And never go into battle with a man called "the Conqueror," because, chances are, he earned that nickname.


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: In the film, it's, "I've snapped and plotted all my life. There's no other way to be alive, King, and 50 all at once."


Christmas 1184: In Santa Claus, A Biography, historian Gerry Bowler notes that the Yule Log was one of the most widespread Christmas traditions in early modern Europe, with the first recording of its appearance dating to this time.

Bowler notes that the tradition's roots are debated -- some saying it is an "enfeebled version of the ancient Celtic human sacrifices" and others saying it's simply related to a feudal obligation of acquiring firewood.

Nevertheless, the log was a huge block, lasting for the Twelve Days of Christmas, and it was not burned completely its first year: part of it was saved to light the following year's yule log. While the mostly burned wood waited for its duty to light a new yule log, it was kept around the house to ward off a range of misfortunes, including toothaches, mildew, lightning, housefires, hail and chilblains (an inflammation of small blood vessels brought on from exposure to cold).

Christmas 1492: La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción -- The Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception -- runs aground in what's now Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. Seeing that his flagship is irretrievably damaged, Christopher Columbus orders his men to strip the timbers from the ship. The timbers were later used to build a fort which Columbus called La Navidad (Nativity, or Christmas), at Limonade. Today, it is part of Université D'Etat D'Haiti, Campus Roi Henri Christophe.

Despite several claims over the last 500 years or so, the wreck of the Santa María has never been found. The Pinta would also be wrecked on the return voyage. The Niña made it back to Spain, and made a trading voyage to Venezuela in 1501, but nothing further is recorded of her.

Christmas 1584: Princess Margaret of Austria is born in Graz, later to be the hometown of Arnold Schwarzenegger. She married King Philip III of Spain, and was thus Queen of Spain from 1598 until her death in 1611, from complications of childbirth, her 8th.

She was the mother of King Philip IV of Spain, Anne of Austria (later Queen of King Louis XIII of France and mother of King Louis XIV), and Maria Anna of Spain (later Empress of Emperor Ferdinand III of the Holy Roman Empire).


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Christmas 1620: The Plymouth Pilgrims spend their first Christmas Day in the New World building their first structure in the New World, thus demonstrating their complete contempt for celebrating the birth of Jesus. To the Puritans, in America and in England, it was the death and Resurrection that mattered, not the birth.

Christmas 1635: Samuel de Champlain, the explorer known as “the Father of New France,” dies from the effects of a stroke, at the city he founded, Quebec -- which is still a capital, of the Province of Quebec. He was 61.

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... )


Actually, since England had not yet adopted the Gregorian Calendar, Newton spent his whole life believing that he was born on December 25, 1642, but science (which he did so much to advance) now shows him to have been born on January 4, 1643.

Christmas 1643: Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean is found and named by Captain William Mynors of the English East India Company vessel, the Royal Mary.

Christmas 1647: The Puritan-led English Parliament bans the celebration of Christmas, considering it "a popish festival with no biblical justification,", and "a time of wasteful and immoral behavior." They replace it with a day of fasting, although no one seems to have had the guts to tell Oliver Cromwell, "Um, yeah, real quick? That sounds like Yom Kippur. A Jewish holiday."

Protests followed as pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several cities. For weeks, Canterbury was controlled by rioters, who decorated doorways with holly and shouted royalist slogans. The book The Vindication of Christmas, published in 1652, argued against the Puritans, and makes note of Old English Christmas traditions: Dinner, roast apples on the fire, card playing, dances with "plow-boys" and "maidservants," old Father Christmas, and carol singing.

Christmas 1659: Christmas observance is outlawed in Boston. By this point, New Amsterdam (present-day New York) was a fully-functioning Dutch city, and, though also Protestant, celebrated Christmas. This is not the source of that classic New York phrase "Boston sucks," but, if the New World Dutch knew what was going on up in Boston, they would have understood the sentiment.

Christmas 1660: The Restoration of King Charles II ends the ban. Poor Robin's Almanack contained these lines:

Now thanks to God for Charles return
Whose absence made old Christmas mourn
For then we scarcely did it know
Whether it Christmas were or no.
Christmas 1681: The Puritan ban on Christmas in Boston is finally revoked, English-appointed governor, Edmund Andros. However, it would not be until the middle of the 19th Century that celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region.
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Christmas 1757: Benjamin Pierce is born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, outside Lowell. A hero of the American Revolution, he served as Governor of New Hampshire twice between 1827 and 1830. His son, Franklin Pierce, served New Hampshire in both houses of Congress, and was the 14th President of the United States. Benjamin died in 1839, having lived long enough to see Franklin elected to the Senate.

It is unknown if, when naming the character based on himself "Benjamin Franklin Pierce," Dr. Richard Hornberger (writing the book M*A*S*H: A Novel About Three Army Doctors under the name Richard Hooker) knew that Franklin Pierce's father was named Benjamin, although as a native of neighboring Maine, he might have. (Franklin Pierce did go to Bowdoin College in Maine.)


Christmas 1776: George Washington, under cover of darkness, leads the Continental Army across the Delaware River. The next morning, when he's gotten all his troops across to the New Jersey side, he marches them 9 miles down what's now State Route 29, and attacks the Hessians, German mercenaries fighting for Britain, who are sleeping off their Christmas revelry. Thus is won the Battle of Trenton, thus keeping the Patriot cause alive in the War of the American Revolution.


This crossing is memorialized in an 1851 painting by, ironically, a German-born American, Emmanuel Leutze. In a further irony, the British got their revenge: In World War II, the Royal Air Force destroyed the original painting, by bombing the Kunsthalle art museum in Bremen. Leutze also painted a copy that hangs in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.


But, like Jacques-Louis David's portrait of Napoleon, on a horse rearing back, leading his troops over the Alps, the painting is factually incorrect and logistically ridiculous. Just as Bonaparte would have ridden a mule over the mountains (and there is a painting depicting that), Washington would never have stood up in his boat. Never mind making himself too easy a target, it might have made the boat tip over.


The Pennsylvania location of the start of the crossing, then known as Taylorsville, is now known as Washington Crossing, in the Township of Upper Makefield. The New Jersey location where it finished is now known as Ewing, after one of Washington's aides, General James Ewing.


Among those who took part in the crossing were some future legends of American statecraft: Alexander Hamilton, Washington's Secretary of the Treasury and, in a way, the father of American conservatism; Henry Knox, Washington's Secretary of War; John Marshall, the longest-serving and most influential Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; and James Monroe, 5th President of the United States, and who, under 4th President James Madison during the War of 1812, had the unenviable task of serving as Secretary of State and War (Defense) at the same time, probably doing his country a greater service in that war than he did in the Revolution or his Presidency.


Monroe, who was 25 at the time, is often cited as the young man sitting behind Washington in the painting, holding the flag. (That's another error: If any flags made the crossing, they would have been kept hidden. Washington was a big believer in the element of surprise, hence the night crossing.)

Christmas 1777: British Captain James Cook visits an island that he names Christmas Island. This is not the same place cited in the 1643 entry. The U.S. takes possession of it in 1856, but it goes back to Britain. In 1979, it becomes part of the newly independent nation of Kiribati -- pronounced "Kiribass" in the natives' language. The island is renamed "Kiritimati," but it is still pronounced "Christmas."

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Christmas 1806: A riot occurs in Lower Manhattan -- or what would have been considered "Midtown" at the time. Fifty members of the Hide Binders, a nativist gang of apprentices and propertyless journeyman butchers, gathers outside St. Peter's Church to taunt Catholic worshippers leaving Midnight Mass.


The watch prevented a serious disorder on the Eve, but on Christmas Day, Irishmen fearing a Hide Binder attack armed themselves with cudgels, stones and brickbats. A skirmish breaks out, a watchman is killed, and the Hide Binders invade the Irishtown. The riot only ends when magistrates are able to restore order.

The only people to get arrested were Irish -- a far cry from the end of the 19th Century, by which point the vast majority of the NYPD was Irish.

Traditionally, new groups have always been viewed suspiciously by the establishment in America.  The Irish, the Germans, the blacks, the Jews, the Italians, the Chinese, the Hispanics, and in more recent times the Arabs and South Asians have all, against their will, taken their turns as the targeted group.


In the early days of the United States, Irish Catholics were particularly targeted and barred from holding office through a series of laws and requirements, such as a 1777 naturalization clause. The 1806 Christmas Riots occurred less than a year following the election of the first Irish Catholic to the State Assembly.

Christmas 1818: "Silent Night" is first performed, at (appropriately enough) the Church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, a town outside Salzburg, on the Galzach River which separates Austria from Germany. (If you don't count Salzburg as a major city, the closest is Munich to the west, not Vienna to the east.)


Father Joseph Mohr (1792-1848) wrote the lyrics (in German: "Stille Nacht"), and Franz Gruber (1787-1863) composed the melody. That's Franz Gruber -- not Hans Gruber, the German terrorist played by Alan Rickman in Die Hard, a film that took place on Christmas Eve 1988.

Christmas 1821: Clara Barton is born in Oxford, Massachusetts, outside Worcester. She goes on to found the American Red Cross. She lived on until 1912.


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, future U.S. Senator from Mississippi. He later served as Secretary of War under the aforementioned Franklin Pierce, and President of the Confederate States of America. Twenty cadets were court-martialed.


No. I am not making that up. There was an Eggnog Riot at West Point.


Christmas 1831: The Great Jamaican Slave Revolt, also known as the Baptist War or the Christmas Rebellion, begins, led by the Reverend Samuel Sharpe. Up to 20 percent of Jamaica's slaves, 60,000 of them, mobilize. By January 4, British forces under the control of the inaptly-named Sir Willoughby Cotton put the rebellion down.

The "plantocracy" retaliates by killing 207 slaves during the revolt, and over 300 more through executions, including some for minor offenses such as theft. This infuriated the colonists' masters back in London, and the process of emancipation began. In 1838, slavery was banned in Jamaica.

Christmas 1837: The Battle of Lake Okeechobee is fought in Florida, as part of the Second Seminole War. The Seminoles, under the command of Holata Micco (known to the U.S. government as Billy Bowlegs), defeats U.S. troops under the command of Colonel Zachary Taylor.

The problem was that Taylor's subcommander, Colonel Richard Gentry, was too timid to face the enemy, and was one of the American soldiers killed. Taylor's report back to Washington said so, and he was promoted to Brigadier General, and won the nickname "Old Rough and Ready." Though he lost the battle, it put him on the path to become the leading U.S. hero of the Mexican-American War of 1846-47, and to be elected President in 1848.

Eventually, the U.S. Army would win the war, and force the resettlement of the Seminoles to "the Indian Territory," present-day Oklahoma. Nonetheless, the name survives in Florida's Seminole County, and in the name of the sports teams at Florida State University, the Seminoles.

Holata Micco would live on until 1859, long enough to visit Washington, and to see a portrait of Taylor, who died in office in 1850, in the Capitol Building. Recognizing his old opponent, he pointed and said, "Me whip!"

Christmas 1842: 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.

Some may say Scrooge was corrupted by socialistic thoughts. Well, he didn't follow the suggestion of Christ that he give away all his money and possessions. The reason we celebrate Scrooge is simple: He stopped being a jerk about having great resources, and started using them for good.


Liberals can celebrate him for finding his heart. Conservatives can celebrate him for actually doing what they always say should be done: "Let the private sector do it." Like Pope Francis has been saying the rich should do, Scrooge lived up to the Christian ideal.

I previously had this date as 1843, because that's the year the story was published. But because of this, it had to have been about a past Christmas, hence, I now have it listed as the year before, December 25, 1842.

Dickens sought to construct Christmas as a family-centered festival of generosity, in contrast to the community-based and church-centered observations, the observance of which had dwindled during the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. A Christmas Carol helped to restore Christmas to a day of celebration in Britain, and to establish it as such in America.

Christmas 1856, 160 years ago: James Francis Galvin is born in St. Louis. The Hall of Fame pitcher was nicknamed "Pud" because he was said to have "reduced hitters to pudding." No word on whether it was figgy pudding.

He won 365 games -- a total 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. That career curiously stopped right before the distance from home plate to the pitcher's mound was extended from 50 feet to the now-traditional 60 feet, 6 inches, thus making it harder on pitchers.


A 2006 National Public Radio article refers to Galvin as "the first baseball player to be widely known for using a performance enhancer." The Washington Post reported that Galvin used the Brown-
Séquard elixir, which contained monkey testosterone, before a game in 1889. However, no one then seemed bothered by his use of the elixir, and the Post practically endorsed it after the game, saying that Galvin's performance was "the best proof yet furnished of the value of the discovery."

He was poor, and couldn't afford to take care of himself, and died in 1902. He was only 45 years old. I can't find a reference to the cause of his death, so I can neither confirm nor deny that the steroid he took had anything to do with it.


Christmas 1864: Thomas W. Cahill -- I can find no record of what the W stands for -- is born in Manhattan, and grows up in St. Louis. He loved baseball and track, but when a soccer team from Toronto visited St. Louis, he got hooked on the sport.

On April 5, 1913, at the Astor House hotel in New York, Tom Cahill founded the United States Football Association, which later became and remains the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the governing body of American soccer. He served as its 1st Executive Secretary, until 1921, when he left to merge 2 regional leagues into the American Soccer League. The Great Depression killed it in 1931, and he died in 1951, forgotten.

He would later be elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame, and should be remembered as the father of American soccer.

Christmas 1865: Fay Templeton is born in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was a prominent American stage actress of the turn of the 20th Century.

Christmas 1867: Wayne Newton makes his 2nd appearance on Bonanza as young singer Andy Walker, in a 1966 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 catches 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 reference to a Christmas party in the original series episode "Dagger of the Mind," and a Christmas scene in a fantasy sequence in the film Star Trek: Generations. So Christmas still exists in the future suggested by Star Trek.


Christmas 1868: In one of his last official acts as President, Andrew Johnson pardons all Confederate soldiers from the American Civil War, for any crimes they may have committed against the United States.


Christmas 1870: This was the 1st year in which December 25 was officially a federal holiday in America, passed by Congress, and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.


Also on this day, Chaja Rubinstein is born in Krakow, Poland. Better known as Helena Rubinstein, she becomes a cosmetics tycoon, and lives on until 1965. Those of us who grew up on PBS' childrens' programming in the 1970s and '80s know her name from the Helena Rubinstein Foundation, which contributed funding for Sesame Street, The Electric Company, et al.

Christmas 1875: "Young Tom Morris," an 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, and, between his grief and his illness, may have lost the will to live.


Old Tom Morris, born in 1821, lived on until 1908. St. Andrews, home of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, and the site of 27 British Opens (but never, as yet, a Ryder Cup), is still "the Home of Golf," partly because of the legacy of the Tom Morrises.


Christmas 1876, 140 years ago: Muhammad Ali Jinnah is born in Karachi, British India. He becomes the founder of the nation of Pakistan in 1947, but lives only a year after its establishment.


Christmas 1877: Henry Judah Trihey is born in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario. A center, he won the Stanley Cup with the Montreal Shamrocks in 1899 and 1900. Regarded as the best forward of his era, he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and died in 1942.

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." He did not live to hear that song, dying in 1941.


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, in the roof garden of the second Madison Square Garden (which White had designed), on June 25, 1906, 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 1886, 130 years ago: A meeting of workers of the Dial Square Shop of the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, Kent (now part of Southeast London) is held at the nearby Royal Oak pub. The men involved had played football under the name Dial Square 2 weeks earlier, defeating Eastern Wanderers 6-0 at Millwall's ground on the Isle of Dogs.


Now, they formalize themselves, calling themselves Royal Arsenal Football Club. They will play their home games at the Manor Ground in nearby Plumstead.

They would turn professional in 1893, necessitating a name change, since a professional sports team was not permitted to have "royal" in its name. So they renamed themselves for their locality: Woolwich Arsenal. In 1913, they moved across the River Thames to the Highbury section of North London, and became simply Arsenal Football Club.


When they play at home right before Christmas, their fans are known to sing, "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, Santa is an Arsenal fan, and at Highbury today!" This is despite the fact that, in 2006, they moved from the old Arsenal Stadium, nicknamed Highbury, and into the Emirates Stadium. When their last game before Christmas is on the road, the fans sing, "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to see The Arsenal win away!"


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, who lived until 1979, is now best known for his socialite great-granddaughters, Paris and Nicky. He was recently played by Chelcie Ross on Mad Men. (You may remember Ross as the hypocritical grizzled veteran pitcher in Major League.)


Also on this day, 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 1889: Royal Arsenal play on Christmas Day for the first time, at the Manor Ground. They defeat Preston Hornets 5-0.

Christmas 1890: Robert LeRoy Ripley is born in Santa Rosa, California. Yes, he was born on a Christmas Day – believe it or not!

Actually, a lot of the items he put in Ripley's Believe It Or Not were stone-cold lies that he just liked.  But some of them were true. He died in 1949.


Also on this day, in Lancashire, England, soccer hooliganism, if not "invented," is first exposed to a wide audience. Blackburn Rovers play a home match at Ewood Park against nearby team Darwen. Rovers were due to play West Midlands club Wolverhampton Wanderers the following day, Boxing Day, and so they field a weakened team. This infuriates the Blackburn fans, particularly as ticket prices had been increased for the game.


When the Darwen team appears, the fans urge them to leave the pitch, which they do, later re-emerging with their second eleven. Eventually, Blackburn and Darwen fans invade the pitch, pulling up the goal posts and threatening to wreck the press box. The police intervene, and finally manage to control the situation.


Christmas 1891, 125 years ago: Royal Arsenal come from a 3-0 deficit to draw 3-3 with Sheffield United, at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, Yorkshire.

Christmas 1893: The newly-professional, newly-in-the-Football-League, newly-renamed Woolwich Arsenal host Burslem Port Vale, later just "Port Vale." Today, they are the only 2 teams in the 92-team Football League who are not named after a specific locality. Arsenal win, 4-1.

Christmas 1894: Woolwich Arsenal again host Burselm Port Vale, and win 7-0. Patrick O'Brien scores 3 goals -- not yet known as a "hat trick" in either ice hockey or association football.

Also on this day, Herbert Jefferis Pennock is born in the Philadelphia suburb of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. A switch-hitting lefthanded pitcher, he was a boarding school baseball teammate of Earle Mack, son of Philadelphia Athletics manager and part-owner Connie Mack. When Earle told his father about a no-hitter he'd caught from Herb Pennock, Connie signed him.

He made his major league debut in 1912. He got sick in 1913, and was not available for the World Series which the A's won. He helped them win the Pennant in 1914, but was traded to the Boston Red Sox as part of Mack's Federal League-induced fire sale, and won the World Series with them in 1915 and 1916, missing the 1918 Series due to serving in World War I.

In 1923, "the Knight of Kennett Square" became the last in a long line of pitchers sold by the Red Sox to the Yankees, whom he helped win the World Series in 1923, 1927, 1928 and 1932, before returning to the Sox for a final season in 1934. He was 240-162 for his career.

He later served as the Red Sox pitching coach and ran their farm system. In 1943, after Bob Carpenter bought the Philadelphia Phillies, Connie Mack recommended that he hire Pennock to run their farm system, and later the general manager. He built the team that would become the 1950 National League Champions, nicknamed the Whiz Kids.

Regrettably, he was also a racist. When Branch Rickey promoted Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, not only did Pennock do nothing to punish Phils manager Ben Chapman's disgusting race-baiting, but he called Rickey before the Dodgers' roadtrip to Philadelphia, and told him not to "bring that (N-word) here with the rest of the team." Rickey brought Robinson with the rest of the team.

On January 30, 1948, less than a year after the events in question, and nearly 3 years before the Phillies would beat the Dodgers on the last day of the regular season to win that Pennant, Pennock was staying at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, preparing to bring some friends to Madison Square Garden to watch a fight card, when he collapsed and died from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was just short of turning 54 years old.

Later that year, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The emergency room Abington Hospital in the Philadelphia suburbs is named the Pennock Emergency Trauma Center in his memory. (I had to go there once. Don't ask. Let's just say I was fine in 2 days.) However, a movement to erect a statue of him in Kennett Square was quashed due to his racism, and the Yankees have never put a Plaque for him in Monument Park. His number is retired, but for someone else: 16, for Whitey Ford.

Christmas 1895: Woolwich Arsenal again host Burslem Port Vale, and win 2-1. 

Christmas 1896, 120 years ago: Woolwich Arsenal host Lincoln City, and win 6-2.

Christmas 1897: Actually, the "Yes, Virginia" editorial was published in the New York Sun on September 21 of this year. Laura Virginia O'Hanlon was then 8 years old. She married briefly, keeping the name Laura Douglas after her divorce. She had a daughter with her brief husband, got a doctorate from Fordham University, taught in New York's public schools from 1912 to 1935, was a principal from then until 1959, and lived on until 1971, always answering letters from kids who asked about the story.

Also on this day, Arsenal lose on Christmas for the 1st time. It is against Tottenham Hotspur, then in Middlesex -- the Tottenham area wouldn't be brought into London, North or otherwise, until the municipal boundaries were redrawn in 1963, effective 1965. Until Arsenal moved to North London in 1913, they considered "Spurs" to be just another opponent. This time, though, Spurs win, 3-2 at the Manor Ground.

Christmas 1899: Humphrey DeForest Bogart is born in Manhattan. Listen, sweetheart, if you don't show some Christmas spirit, you'jl regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.


Bogie died from smoking in 1957, but he may still be the most beloved actor in American history.  "Here's looking at you, kid."


Also on this day, Woolwich Arsenal travel to Lincoln City, and lose 5-0.

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Christmas 1900: Woolwich Arsenal host East London club West Ham United, and win 1-0.

Christmas 1901: Woolwich Arsenal host Lancashire club Blackpool. The game ends in a 0-0 draw.

Christmas 1902: Barton MacLane is born in Columbia, South Carolina. Like Bogie, he developed a reputation for playing tough guys, especially cowboys and cops. He died in 1969.

Also on this day, Woolwich Arsenal travel to Staffordshire, and lose 2-1 to Burton United.

Christmas 1903: Woolwich Arsenal host Yorkshire club Bradford City, and win 4-1. At the conclusion of the 1903-04 season, Arsenal will be promoted to the Football League Division One for the 1st time.

Christmas 1905: Della Young has just $1.87 – about $34 in today's money – which she considers to be 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, thus making it (or so they say) the oldest continuously run bar in New York. It's at 129 East 18th Street at Irving Place, in Manhattan's Gramercy Park.


Also on this day, Woolwich Arsenal host North-East club Newcastle United, and win 4-3.

Christmas 1906, 110 years ago: Woolwich Arsenal host Celtic of Glasgow, Scotland, and lose 2-0.

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!" The jazz legend of the 1930s, introduced to a new generation in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, died in 1994.


Also on this day, Woolwich Arsenal again host Newcastle United, and play to a 2-2 draw.

Christmas 1908: Denis Charles Pratt was born in Sutton, Surrey, England, outside London. He was better known as the author Quentin Crisp. He lived until 1999.

Also on this day, Woolwich Arsenal visit Leicester Fosse, the club now known as Leicester City, and draw 1-1. In those days, it was a common practice for teams to play each other at one's ground on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and then travel to the other's ground to play again on December 26, Boxing Day. This was the 1st time that Arsenal did it, and they won the rematch in Plumstead, 2-1.

Christmas 1909: Woolwich Arsenal, by now in a financial meltdown that will see them just barely saved from going out of business in the Spring, against host Newcastle United, finishing up what is still the most productive decade in their history, and lose 3-0.

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Christmas 1911: Not that most people then rooting for Woolwich Arsenal cared about who the opponent was, but the Gunners lose 5-0 to Tottenham at White Hart Lane. The next day, the clubs meet again at the Manor Ground, and Arsenal win 3-1.

Christmas 1912: Arsenal host Nottingham club Notts County, and draw 0-0. The 1912-13 season will be the worst in Arsenal's history, the only time they will ever be relegated to the 2nd division. Team owner Henry Norris decided that the location in Southeast London, then having poor transportation links, was a problem.

So he bought land in Islington, in North London, and built a new stadium, officially named the Arsenal Stadium, but nicknamed Highbury after the neighborhood. It was much easier to reach for clubs both inside and outside London. Alas, it would begin life outside the top flight.

Christmas 1913: Woolwich Arsenal travel to Yorkshire and beat Bradford Park Avenue (not to be confused with Bradford City) 3-2. At the conclusion of the season, Norris, noting that the club no longer plays in Woolwich, drops the locality from the name, and it becomes simply "Arsenal Football Club." Many fans will continue to call the club what they've been calling it: "The Arsenal." Many still do.

Also on this day, Alvin Morris is born in San Francisco. Known professionally as singer and actor Tony Martin, 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 in 2012.

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. It's not clear which side produced the ball, but according to most accounts that discuss the match, the Germans 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 in the 20th Century, 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 (a technical advisor for the film version of the World War I story War Horse) 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."


In 1997, Garth Brooks and Joe Henry wrote a song titled "Belleau Wood" for Brooks' album Sevens.  It describes a Christmas truce between American and German soldiers at Belleau Wood in 1917. But this is fiction, as the battle of Belleau Wood took place in June 1918, in Aisne, Picardy, France.


The Football League did not suspend operations until the conclusion of the 1914-15 season. On Christmas, Arsenal began a home-and-home series, defeating Leicester Fosse away 4-1 on the 25th, and 6-0 at home on the 26th.

Christmas 1915: With rosters depleted by the war, Arsenal travel to Upton Park in East London for what is, essentially, a reserve match, and lose 8-2 to West Ham United.

Christmas 1916, 100 years ago: Arsenal travel to the Park Royal Ground in West London, then the stadium of Queens Park Rangers. They beat QPR 3-2. 

Christmas 1917: Arsenal travel to Craven Cottage in West London, home of Fulham, and play to a 1-1 draw.

Christmas 1918: The war finally over, but the League deciding not to re-establish play until the following season (September 1919), Arsenal travel to East London, and lose 3-2 to Clapton Orient, the club now known as Leyton Orient.

It's a big day for Arsenal for another reason, as Bertram Mee is born in Bulwell, Nottinghamshire. A winger, he played for Mansfield Town and Southampton, but his playing career was cut short by injury.

This had also been the case for Arsenal players Tom Whittaker and Billy Milne, and Bertie Mee followed his path, taking what he'd learned in treating his injury and putting it to work as a physiotherapist, becoming Arsenal's, and in 1966 becoming Arsenal's manager. But before going to Arsenal, World War II intervened, and he entered the Royal Army Medical Corps.

He rose to the rank of Sergeant, but after succeeding Milne as physiotherapist in 1960 and being named manager in 1966, he remained a Sergeant through and through. He instilled discipline in an Arsenal side that was nearly relegated in 1966, a team that was not only terrible, but was perhaps the least interesting in London, what with Tottenham and West Ham having won major trophies in the decade, and Chelsea, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers all having gotten favorable notices in the media for their play.

In 1966-67, he did the personnel management and the discipline, while assistant manager Dave Sexton trained the offense. After that season, Sexton was named manager at Chelsea, but former star right back Don Howe, another whose career ended too soon by injury, was named assistant manager, and he straightened out the defense. Arsenal reached the Final of the League Cup in 1968 and 1969, won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1970, and then, with a few adjustments due to injury that turned out to be very fortuitous, won both the Football League and the FA Cup -- "The Double" -- in 1971.

In 1972, with Howe having left for the manager's job at West Bromwich Albion, Arsenal finished 5th in a tight 5-team race, and lost the FA Cup Final. In 1973, they finished a close 2nd and lost the FA Cup Semifinal. Unfortunately, Mee saw every challenge to his authority, even minor ones, as betrayal, and acted the Sergeant too often. And he started a tradition followed by Terry Neill in 1980, George Graham in 1991, and Arsene Wenger in 2005: Breaking up a great Arsenal team too soon. Both of these problems manifested themselves in his sale of Captain Frank McLintock after the 1973 season.

Arsenal fell apart, and nearly got relegated in the 1975 and 1976 seasons, barely staying up both times. Mee was finally let go. He later served as Graham Taylor's assistant at Watford, and lived until 2001. He won 241 games as Arsenal manager, a record that stood until surpassed by Arsène Wenger in 2006.

Christmas 1919: Arsenal, back in League play and promoted back to Division One, travel to Derbyshire, and lose 3-2 to Derby County. The next day, the teams meet at Highbury, and Arsenal win 1-0.

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Christmas 1920: Arsenal go to Goodison Park in Liverpool, and beat Everton 4-2.

Christmas 1922: Arsenal go to Burnden Park in Bolton and lost to Bolton Wanderers 4-1.

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.)


Also on this day, Arsenal go to St. Andrews Stadium in Birmingham, and lose to Birmingham City 2-1.

Christmas 1925: Ned Franklin Garver is born in Ney, Ohio, outside Toledo. In 1951, he went 20-12 pitching for the St. Louis Browns, the team that became the Baltimore Orioles 3 years later. This was quite a feat, considering that the Browns went 52-102 that year. Garver was the starting pitcher for the American League in that year's All-Star Game in Detroit.


Pitching in the major leagues from 1948 to 1961, with mostly bad teams, Garver finished with a career record of 129-157. But he must have had some talent, above and beyond his remarkable 1951 season, because the great Ted Williams said, "He could throw anything up there and get me out." He is still alive, age 89.


Also on this day, Samuel Patterson Smyth Pollock is born in Montreal. Hired by the Montreal Canadiens' front office in 1959, he was general manager from 1963 to 1978, helping to build 12 Stanley Cup winners. He is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and died in 2007.

Also on this day, Arsenal host Notts County at Highbury, and win 3-0.

Christmas 1926, 90 years ago: Emperor Yoshihito of Japan dies of a heart attack, brought on by pneumonia. He was only 47. He is succeeded by his son, who becomes Emperor Hirohito.

Also on this day, Richard Wesley Manville is born in Des Moines, Iowa. A man brilliant enough to earn degrees from both Harvard and Yale, he was also a major league pitcher -- briefly. He pitched 1 game, 2 innings, for the Boston Braves in 1950; and 11 games for the Chicago Cubs in 1952. He is still alive.

Christmas 1927: Jacob Nelson Fox is born in St. Thomas, Pennsylvania. Nellie Fox, a diminutive but crafty 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.

Along with his contemporaries Phil Rizzuto, Gil Hodges and Richie Ashburn, and the younger Ron Santo, Fox was one of those guys that everyone hoped would one day get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, but wondered why it was taking so long. Rizzuto lived long enough to make it, in 1994. So did Ashburn, in 1995. Fox didn't, dying of skin cancer in 1975 and getting elected in 1997. Santo didn't, either, dying in 2010 and being elected in 2012. Hodges died in 1972, and his supporters are still waiting.


Christmas 1928: Nellie Elizabeth McCalla is born in Pawnee City, Nebraska, and grows up in Iowa. Known professionally as Irish McCalla, she was a model, one of pinup artist Alberto Vargas' "Varga Girls." She got into movies in the early 1950s, and in the 1955-56 season starred in Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. By her own admission, "I couldn't act, but I could swing through the trees."


She left acting for art, her last role being on an 1963 episode of 77 Sunset Strip, and became an accomplished painter. But her status as an action-adventure hero -- the female one on TV -- kept her in demand at nostalgia and sci-fi/fantasy conventions. She died in 2002.


Also on this day, Arsenal play their 1st Christmas Day match under manager Herbert Chapman. They lose 5-2, away to Blackburn Rovers.

Christmas 1929: Arsenal, on the way to their 1st major trophy (the 1930 FA Cup), travel to Fratton Park, and beat Portsmouth 1-0 on a goal by their diminutive but prolific inside left Alex James.

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Christmas 1930: Eliot Ness 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 on an episode of The Untouchables. Oddly, it did not air anywhere near Christmas, but rather on September 25, 1962. Ness was a real person, but this story is entirely fictional. He was played by Robert Stack on the TV series, and by Kevin Costner in the 1987 film version.


Also on this day, Arsenal, on the way to their 1st League title in April 1931, travel to Manchester, and beat Manchester City at Maine Road, 4-1. Goals by Joe Hulme, David Jack, Jack Lambert (no relation to the later Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker of the same name), and a penalty by Cliff Bastin.

Christmas 1931: Arsenal travel to Yorkshire, and lose to Sheffield United 4-1 at Bramall Lane. They go on to a dubious near-Double, finishing 2nd in the League and losing the FA Cup Final.

Christmas 1932: King George V delivers a Royal Christmas Message to the British Empire, broadcast live over the BBC and its Worldwide Service, thus beginning a tradition.


Christmas 1933: Having won the League the season before, Arsenal travel to Yorkshire, and beat Leeds United 1-0 at Elland Road. Bastin scores. Despite Chapman's death 2 weeks after Chritmas, they win the League again under interim manager Joe Shaw.

Christmas 1934: Now managed by George Allison, Arsenal defeat Lancashire club Preston North End 5-3, at Highbury. Hulme scores 2, Bastin 1, Ray Bowden 1, and they also get the benefit of an own goal by Preston. The next day, Preston get revenge, 2-1 at their home ground of Deepdale. Arsenal go on to make it 3 straight League titles.


In the 1st season of the Football League, 1888-89, Preston went unbeaten, winning 18 games, drawing 4 and losing none. They also won the FA Cup, making the 1st "Double." An unbeaten League season would not happen again until Arsenal in 2003-04: As broadcaster Alan Parry said, "They were, quite literally, unbeatable: Played 38, won 24, drawn 12, lost exactly none!"

Christmas 1935: Anne Roth is born in Manhattan. We know her as Anne Roiphe, a novelist whose works include the "feminist classic" Up the Sandbox, published in 1970. She is still alive.

Also on this day, Arsenal travel to Anfield in Liverpool, and beat Liverpool 1-0 on a goal by Joe Hulme. But the next day, Liverpool win at Highbury, 2-1. Arsenal go on to win the 1936 FA Cup.

Christmas 1936, 80 years ago: Arsenal host Preston, and win 4-1, on goals by Jackie Milne, Alf Kirchen, and 2 by Ted Drake.

Christmas 1937: Arturo Toscanini conducts the NBC Symphony Orchestra on radio for the 1st time, beginning an iconic tenure that lasts 17 years. His selections include works by Antonio Vivaldi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Johannes Brahms.

Also on this day, Arsenal travel to Lancashire, and blow a 1-0 halftime lead on a penalty by Bastin, and lose to Blackpool 2-1. They go on to win the 1938 League title anyway.

Also on this day, O'Kelly Isley Jr. is born in Cincinnati.  A very different kind of musical legend, he was the eldest of the singing Isley Brothers, he grew up and go their start in Teaneck, Bergen County, New Jersey -- eventually starting T-Neck Records.


He and his brothers Ronald and Rudolph (no, he wasn't born on Christmas, and didn't have a red nose) wrote "Shout!" (As in, "We-e-e-e-e-e-ll... You know you make me wanna shout!") They also wrote "Nobody But Me" (as in, "No no, no, no no, no no no no no... Nobody can do the shing-a-ling! like I do... "), which didn't chart for them, but became a hit a few years later for the Human Beinz. O'Kelly died in 1986, Ronald is now 75, Rudolph (Isley, that is, not the reindeer) is 77.


Also on this day, Newton Baker dies of a cerebral hemorrhage in the Cleveland suburbs. He was 66 years old. He was Mayor of Cleveland from 1912 to 1915. He served as Secretary of War under President Woodrow Wilson from 1916 to 1921, including the entire U.S. contribution to World War I. At 44 at the time of his appointment, he was the youngest member of the Cabinet.

He was so well-regarded that subsequent Republican Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover crossed party lines to appoint him to commissions. He was seriously considered as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President in 1932, but refused to run, preferring to work, successfully as it turned out, for the nomination of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York, whom he had known as Wilson's Assistant Secretary of the Navy. A law firm he founded, Baker Hostetler, is still considered one of the top firms in America.

Christmas 1938: Karel Capek dies of pneumonia in Prague, in what was then Czechoslovakia.  The science fiction pioneer was only 48. His 1922 play, Rossum's Universal Robots, contained the first published example of the use of the word "robot." He claimed the word was coined by his brother Josef, meaning "serf labor," essentially labor without any choice, as a robot could be programmed to do.

Karel had refused to leave his homeland after the Nazis annexed it, and this stress, combined with a spinal condition that made life very painful, may have contributed to his early death. Josef, a painter and a writer in his own right, didn't live much longer, as the Nazis sent him to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where he died in 1945, age 58.   


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 did not exist in real life.) And doggone it if, but for the grace of God and his glasses, he doesn't come near to really shooting his eye out!


The film is A Christmas Story, narrated by the author of the original story, Jean Shepherd (who has a cameo as a parent standing on line with his son for Santa Claus in the store). Shepherd grew up in Hammond, Indiana, outside Chicago, although he was older than Ralphie, as 1939 was the year he graduated from Hammond High School.


In the film, Cleveland stands in for both Chicago and Hammond. Cleveland's Public Square is easily identifiable, with its big Civil War memorial in the center, the Terminal Tower (built in 1930), and Higbee's department store, which has since been turned into Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, although the Higbee's sign seen in the movie is still there.


Ralphie is played by Peter Billingsley. He is now 45, and while he still acts, having appeared in the 1st Iron Man film, he mainly produces and directs now, including the Netflix series F Is for Family.


In 2016, just 2 years after the Sandy Hook Massacre, only someone who doesn't understand anything about parenting -- or Christmas -- would give a child a firearm as a Christmas present.

Also on this day, with World War II underway, the Football League has again suspended operations, and won't start again until the 1946-47 season (although the Football Association will play a full FA Cup tournament in 1945-46). Arsenal host Clapton Orient, and win 3-0. Kirchen, Jack Crayston and Reg Lewis score the goals.

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Christmas 1940: Pal Joey, a musical based on the novel by John O'Hara, premieres at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre at 243 West 47th Street in New York. It includes the songs "Chicago" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." It stars Gene Kelly, Vivienne Segal, June Havoc, Van Johnson and Stanley Donen.


It's better known for the 1957 film version, starring Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak. In spite of Sinatra having done the best-known versions of both "My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)" and "Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)," the song "Chicago" in this musical is neither one of those.


The last surviving theatre built by the Shubert organization, the Ethel Barrymore is currently preparing to stage a revival of Six Degrees of Separation.

Also on this day, South Side Park burns down 
in Chicago. As far as anyone knows, the fire is not purposely set. It was the 1st home of the American League's Chicago White Sox (1901 to 1910), and of the Negro Leagues' Chicago American Giants (1910 to 1940). The American Giants won 7 Pennants while playing there, the White Sox 2.

Also on this day, under the wartime conditions of depleted rosters, Tommy Lawton plays for Everton against Liverpool at Anfield in the morning. Liverpool win, 3-1. Then he is asked to play as a guest player for Merseyside club Tranmere Rovers at nearby Cheshire club Crewe Alexandra in the afternoon.
As he recalled, "The Tranmere people came into the dressing room, and asked if anyone wanted to play, as they were two men short. I said, 'Go on, I'll help you out.' And I did."

I can't find a record of the result of the Tranmere-Crewe match, but Lawton played a full 90 minutes in the afternoon, after having already done so on Christmas morning. Given the heavy leather balls and ragged pitches (especially in Winter) of the era, this may qualify as a Christmas miracle.

Just 4 days later, the Luftwaffe bombed the Rolls-Royce factory in Crewe, which had been making Spitfire planes for the Royal Air Force.

Also on this day, Arsenal lose 4-2 away to West Ham United. 

Also on this day, Agnes Ayres dies of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was only 42, and had been one of the top actresses of the silent film era, starring opposite Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik and Son of the Sheik.

Also on this day, Peter Edward Brown is born in Ashtead, Surrey, England. A singer, and a cousin of actor Marty Feldman (What hump?), he is best remembered for his collaborations with Jack Bruce, both in the band Cream and in Bruce's solo career. He and Bruce wrote "I Feel Free," "Sunshine of Your Love," and one of my favorite rock songs of all time, "White Room" -- which is definitely not to be confused with "White Christmas." He is still alive.


Christmas 1941, 75 years ago: The British surrender Hong Kong to the Japanese, who had begun a siege of it on December 8, a day after bombing Pearl Harbor and other American targets in the Pacific region. The people of Hong Kong remembered it as "Black Christmas," and control would not return to Japan until August 30, 1945.

With China in control today, and remembering its status as Britain's ally at the time and Japan's enemy at nearly all times, the "Black Christmas" continues.

Also on this day, Arsenal host Fulham and win 2-0, on goals by Kirchen and Lewis. Although both men's best years happened during The War (always Capital T, Capital W), Lewis would score twice to win Arsenal the 1950 FA Cup Final.

Christmas 1942: Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge in West London, and lose 5-2 to Chelsea.

Christmas 1943: Arsenal travel to The Den in South London, and beat Millwall 5-1. Lewis scores twice. Goals are also scored by Drake, Denis Compton and Bobby Flavell.

The brothers Leslie and Denis Compton were accomplished athletes, both of whom played soccer for Arsenal (Les was better at that sport) and cricket for Middlesex County Cricket Club (Denis was better at that one).

Also on this day, Howard James Twilley Jr. is born in Houston. In 1965, playing wide receiver for the University of Tulsa, he was runner-up to USC running back Mike Garrett for the Heisman Trophy. He became an original 1966 Miami Dolphin, and was the only one to make it to their undefeated 1972 team that won Super Bowl VII, also winning Super Bowl VIII.

He later ran a string of Athlete's Foot sporting-goods stores, and then an investment firm, and is in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. He is still alive.

Christmas 1944: Jair Ventura Filho is born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Known as Jairzinho and nicknamed O Furacão (The Hurricane), he starred with hometown club Botafogo and the Brazilian national soccer team, and won World Cups for his country in 1962 and 1970. He is still alive, and currently manages a Rio-based team in the lower divisions of Brazil's league system.

Also on this day, Arsenal travel to Griffin Park in West London, and draw 1-1 with Brentford.

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 -- about $107,000 in today's money. 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.


In the "bank run" sequence, set in 1932, $242 then would be $4,263 today; $20 would be $352.34; $17.50 would be $308.30; and the $2.00 the Baileys ended up with would be $35.23.


ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel recently showed what the film would have looked like from the perspective of the villain, Henry Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore. He is a brother of the aforementioned Ethel. So was the late John Barrymore, whose granddaughter is Drew Barrymore.


On the same day, in real life, with World War II over and victory belonging to the Allies, Arsenal travel to Wales, and lose 2-1 to Newport County at Rodney Parade in Newport.


Also on this day, Noel Redding is born in Folkestone, Kent, England. He was the guitarist for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He died in 2003.

Also, Rick Berman is born in Manhattan. He became the keeper of the Star Trek flame after Gene Roddenberry died, until it was foolishly given to J.J. "Jar-Jar" Abrams.  He is still alive.


Also, Ken Stabler is born in Foley, Alabama. "The Snake" was backup quarterback to Joe Namath at the University of Alabama in their 1964 National Championship season, then led them to another title in 1965.
He guided the Oakland Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI.

He once said, "There's nothing wrong with reading a playbook by the light of a jukebox." The writer Jack London, also a noted party animal in Oakland, once wrote, "I would rather be ashes than dust. I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor than a sleepy, permanent planet." Someone once read those words to Stabler, and asked him what he thought they meant. Stabler paused a moment, then said, "Throw deep."

Somehow, in spite of all his carousing, he lived until 2015 -- but not long enough to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which elected him in a sympathy vote right after his death.

Also, 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. Sandy is still alive.

Christmas 1946, 70 years ago: Legendary comedian W.C. Fields dies from the long-term effects of alcoholism. He was 66. In a 1941 film, titled Never Give a Sucker an Even Break after another quote of his, he said, "I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That's the one thing I am indebted to her for." This saying was eventually mixed up, and has become popularly known as, "'Twas a woman who drove me to drink, and I never had the decency to thank her for it."


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.

Also on this day, Arsenal host Portsmouth, and win 2-1 on goals by Jimmy Logie and Ronnie Rooke.

Also on this day, Gene Autry, dressed as Santa Claus, rides Champion Jr. the Wonder Horse in the Santa Claus Lane Parade, now known as the Hollywood Christmas Parade. He heard children yelling, "Here comes Santa Claus!" So he writes a song with that title.

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 was remade in 1973 and 1994. In those versions, Santa was played by Sebastian Cabot and Richard Attenborough, respectively; 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 Mullally on Will & Grace!


For the 1994 version, the lawyer is named Bryan Bedford, Mrs. Walker goes back to being named Doris (or, rather, "Dorey"), and, this time, fictional store names had to be used: Macy's had refused to give permission to use their name, and became "Cole's"; while Gimbel's had gone out of business, so the scriptwriters used "Shoppers Express."



Also on this day, Arsenal, now managed by former player and physiotherapist Tom Whittaker, beat Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, on 2 goals by Rooke and 1 by Don Roper. Arsenal go on to win the 1948 League title.

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.

Also on this day, Arsenal host Derby County, and the teams play to a 3-3 draw.

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.


Also on this day, Leon Schlesinger dies of a viral infection at age 65. A film producer, he was a relative of the Warner Brothers, and founded their cartoon division, leading to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and all the others. Including Porky Pig. So he died on a Christmas Day. Dare I say it? I dare: "Abadee, abadee, abadee, aba, That's all, folks!"


*

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, 4 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 nearly 63 years now, and the Stone's transport back to Westminster has not been necessary.


Also on this day, Arsenal host Stoke City and their legendary midfielder, Stanley Matthews, the man known as the Wizard of Dribble. Stoke win 3-0.

Also on this day, Jesus Manuel Marcano Trillo is born in Caripito, Venezuela. A child born on December 25, and named Jesus? Not just Jesus, but Jesus Manuel -- as in short for "Emmanuel," meaning "God with us"? He's better known as Manny Trillo, the 2nd baseman of the 1980 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.


Also on this day, Kyle Rote Jr. is born in Dallas. The son of Southern Methodist University (SMU) running back Kyle Rote, soon to become a pro star with the Giants, Kyle Jr. played the original football. He starred for the Dallas Tornadoes, becoming one of the earliest American-born soccer players to be widely known. However, he only played 5 games for the national team. He also won ABC's Superstars competition 3 times in 4 years in the late 1970s. He now runs an athletes' agent service.

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).


Also on this day, Arsenal host Portsmouth, and win 4-1 on goals by Lewis, Logie, Freddie Cox and Peter Goring.

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 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, Potter 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 a confused 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 British Army matches this by having the officers and enlisted men switch jobs.


The other Boxing Day tradition, not mentioned on the show, is, as I mentioned earlier, nearby "football clubs" playing each other in "derby" matches. Although there was an episode that had wounded British soldiers mentioning their country's FA Cup, including Arsenal defeating Manchester United in a match. Arsenal did not, however, win an FA Cup Final during the Korean War, their best performance being losing the 1952 Final to Newcastle United. They won the Final in 1950, right before the war, and took the 1953 League title, the last one before the war ended.


Potter thinks the Boxing Day switcheroo is a great idea. So he becomes company clerk, and names Klinger commanding officer. Surgeon Hawkeye and Father Mulcahy become hospital orderlies. Surgeon B.J. and head nurse Margaret are assigned K.P. (kitchen patrol). Charles, a gourmet who's always complaining about the quality of Army food (though, to be fair, they all did), 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 a humble orderly. And now, I'm doing abdominal surgery."

The Korean War lasted 3 years, plus 1 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, Arsenal beat Bolton Wanderers 6-4 at Burnden Park. The goals are scored by Logie, Roper, Ray Daniel, Arthur Milton, and 2 by Cliff Holton. Milton, who lived until 2007, was the last survivor of the 12 men to have played for England at the senior level in both soccer and cricket. The Comptons had also done so. Arsenal would win the 1953 League title, the closest race in the League's history.


Also on this day, Carol Christine Hilaria Pounder is born in Georgetown, Guyana in South America. 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 1953: Patrick "Patsy" Donovan dies at age 88. The native of Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland was one of the top baseball players of his time, the 1890s and 1910s. A right fielder, he batted .307 for his career, collecting 2,253 hits, playing mainly for the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.  He led the National League in stolen bases in 1900.


He also managed both teams, as well as the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Red Sox. But the only Pennant he was involved in was in his rookie year, with the Dodgers (or, as they were then known -- I swear, I am not making this up, it came from several of their players having gotten married in a single off-season -- the Bridegrooms) in 1890.


On television, Father Xavier Rojas (Harry Bartell -- far be it for a TV network in the early '50s get a Hispanic actor to play a Hispanic character) discovers that the statue of the Infant Jesus is stolen from its crib 
at the Old Mission Plaza Church in Los Angeles. The statue's worth is only a few dollars, but it is of great sentimental value for the parish.

L.A. Police Sergeant Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and Officer Frank Smith (Ben Alexander) promise to try to get it back before Mass on Christmas Day, but this means that they have less than 24 hours to catch the thief. As was always said on Dragnet, "The story you have just heard is true. The names have been changed, to protect the innocent."


The episode is title "The Big Little Jesus." When Dragnet returned in color in the 1960s, a 1967 episode basically redid the story, under the title "The Christmas Story," this time with Detective Friday teaming with Detective Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan -- 8 years before he first played Colonel Potter).

Christmas 1954: Singer Johnny Ace kills himself while fooling around with a gun backstage at a concert at the City Auditorium in Houston. According to witnesses, he was not playing Russian roulette (as the legend says), just goofing off, not intending to harm anyone, including himself. He was only 25.


Some have called him "the first dead rock star," although that title has also been given to country music icon Hank Williams.

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.


Also on this day, Arsenal host Chelsea at Highbury, and win 1-0 on a goal by 1940 Merseyside hero Tommy Lawton, now playing out the string at age 36.

But Chelsea will go on to win the League title for the 1st time in their 50-year history -- the only time they will do so until 2005, when corrupt Russian energy boss Roman Abramovich has taken them over. They win this 1955 title with the 1st man ever to win the League as both a non-managing player and a non-playing manager. And he's an Arsenal man: Ted Drake.

Christmas 1955: Queen Elizabeth II delivers the 1st televised Royal Christmas Message, although it is in sound only over a royal coat of arms.


Also on this day, 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.


A year earlier, when "The Honeymooners" was still just a sketch on the hourlong The Jackie Gleason Show, Gleason played most of his characters: Ralph, Reginald Van Gleason III, Joe the Bartender, Fenwick Babbitt, and the mute, pantomiming Pour Soul.  Noticeably absent was "Charlie Bratton the Loudmouth."


Halfway across the country, in Milwaukee, Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) discovers that his pal Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) has nowhere to go on Christmas. Naturally, Richie proves that, on occasion, he can be every bit as cool as the Fonz, and invites him to have dinner with the family. Happy Days, indeed.


This episode, titled "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas," aired in 1974 -- and it was eventually established that the show took place 19 years in the past; hence, 1955.


Also in 1955, C.S. Lewis published Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus. It is a satire of the observance of two simultaneous holidays in "Niatirb" ("Britain" spelled backwards) from the supposed view of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. One of the holidays, "Exmas," is observed by a flurry of compulsory commercial activity and expensive indulgence in alcoholic beverages. The other, "Crissmas," is observed in Niatirb's temples. Lewis's narrator asks a priest why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas. He receives the reply:

"It is not lawful, O Stranger, for us to change the date of Crissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left."

And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, "It is, O Stranger, a racket... "

Christmas 1956, 60 years ago: Arsenal play Chelsea to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. Whittaker had died earlier in the year, and the club had gone into a long decline that wouldn't be reversed for 10 years.

This remains the last game that Arsenal have played on a Christmas Day. By the 1970s, England's Football Association would stop allowing Football League games to be played on Christmas Day. To this day, however, they are still played on the day after, a.k.a. Boxing Day, usually neighboring rivals to save on travel costs.

Christmas 1957: Charles Pathe, a pioneer in film and recorded sound, dies in Monaco, one day short of his 94th birthday.

Also on this day, 
Queen Elizabeth II appears on television to deliver the Royal Christmas Message. Previously, she had only been heard, not seen, even in the TV broadcast. She continues to appear onscreen every Christmas Day, albeit on tape delay.

Also on this day, Shane Patrick Lysaght MacGowan is born in Pembury, Kent, England. His Irish parents took him back to Tipperary, before returning to London when he was 6 years old. In 1982, he founded The Pogues, an anglicisation of the Gaelic insult, "póg mo thóin," meaning "kiss my ass."

While he has beaten heroin addiction, with help from fellow Irish rocker Sinéad O'Connor, he remains a heavy drinker, and has had great difficulty getting around since a 2015 incident in which he fell and broke his pelvis. 

Christmas 1958: Alannah Myles (no middle name) is born in Toronto. Essentially a one-hit wonder, the singer of the 1990 Number 1 hit "Black Velvet" has suffered nerve damage and has difficulty moving, but she still records. She says "medical marijuana" has helped her condition.

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 named 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 1959: Michael Phillip Anderson is born in Plattsburgh, New York, not far from the Canadian border. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1998. Unfortunately, he also flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia, and was 1 of the 7 astronauts killed on re-entry on February 1, 2003. He was only 43 years old.

*


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. The wish is 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. In 1988, Carney would appear in my favorite Christmas-themed commercial of all time, despite it being for a product I don't like, Coca-Cola: "Grandpa's magic pinecone!" The grandson was played by Brian Bonsall, who played Andy Keaton on Family Ties and Worf's son Alexander Rozhenko on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He stopped acting while in high school, and has been in punk bands ever since.


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 Jim. 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 1961: Owen Brewster dies of cancer at age 73. Governor of Maine from 1925 to 1929, and serving in both houses of Congress from 1935 to 1952, he was an ally of Red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy, and nearly as reckless with his charges. His challenges to industrialist and film producer Howard Hughes allowed for his corruption to be publicly revealed, ruining his career.


In the film The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes -- and premiering on Christmas Day 2004 -- Brewster is played by Alan Alda, who once again plays a native of Maine, but one whose politics are diametrically opposed to those of his real-life self and those of Hawkeye Pierce.


Christmas 1962: 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, a young Robert Duvall.


Christmas 1963: Although it's not specified, a Christmas party could be the "Oh What a Night" that produced the Four Seasons song "December 1963," a Number 1 hit in March 1976.  In real life, at Christmas '63, the Seasons -- Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi and Tommy DeVito -- had a hit with their version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."


Christmas 1964: The personal life of Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) gets messy. That of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) gets even messier than it already was. And a Christmas party at the ad agency goes very wrong. This episode of Mad Men, which aired incongruously on August 1, 2010, is titled "Christmas Comes But Once a Year."


Also on this day, Gary McAllister (no middle name) is born in Motherwell, Scotland. A midfielder, he helped hometown soccer club Motherwell gain promotion to Scotland's 1st division in 1985, was bought by English club Leicester City, helped Leeds United win England's Football League in 1992, played for Coventry City, and then was a member of the 2001 Liverpool team that won a "cup treble": The FA Cup, the League Cup and the UEFA Cup (the tournament now known as the UEFA Europa League).

He later managed Coventry, Leeds and Birmingham club Aston Villa, and is now a club ambassador for Liverpool.

Christmas 1965: Charlie Brown, the lead character of Charles Schulz' comic strip Peanuts, wasn't the first fictional character to wonder what Christmas was all about, nor the last. Nor was he the first nor the last to get his Christmas hopes laughed at.

But, as his best friend Linus Van Pelt (voiced by Chris Shea) points out (after quoting The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, Verses 8 through 14, to remind us of "what Christmas is all about"), like the scrawny little tree that he'd found, ol' Chuck (voiced by Peter Robbins) just needed a little love. A Charlie Brown Christmas was the first Peanuts special, and it remains the best.


Christmas 1966, 50 years ago: Agents Napoleon Solo and 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. Vaughn died earlier this year. He was the last surviving member of the titular heroes in the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven.


Also on this day, as aspiring actress Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas) ends her shift as an elf for a department store Santa Claus, she tells her boyfriend Donald Hollinger (Ted Bessell) about her stint as a teacher in a boarding school trying to bring good tidings and joy to a boy who won't be able to go home for Christmas. This episode of That Girl was titled "Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid." It was written by James L. Brooks. (Remember that for a few moments.)


That Girl premiered on September 8 of that year -- as did Star Trek.


Christmas 1968: The Apollo 8 astronauts become the 1st people of Earth to see the far side of the Moon. Upon seeing a phased Earth, appearing as the Moon usually does, from lunar orbit, the astronauts -- Bill Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman -- take turns reading from the Bible, but the opening, the Creation story of Genesis, rather than the First Christmas story.


Also, Helena Christensen (no middle name) is born in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is one of the most heralded models of the last 25 years.


Also, James Thomas Dowd is born in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Growing up in neighboring Brick, Jim Dowd was the 1st 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. He now coaches a youth hockey team in Red Bank, New Jersey.


Also on this day, the Arnold family of The Wonder Years -- the location is never specified, although show writer Neal Marlens wanted it to be set in his hometown of Huntington, Long Island, New York, hence Kevin often wears a Jets jacket -- is disappointed that family patriarch Jack (Dan Lauria) didn't take the opportunity of Christmas to buy the family's 1st color television set. Kevin (played by Fred Savage, adult Kevin's voiceover by Daniel Stern) says that said set was bought in 1970 -- meaning the writers did their research, because that was the 1st year in which more than half of all American households had color TV.


Christmas 1969: Baby's First Christmas. Well, mine, anyway. Not that I knew it.

Also on this day, Carol Brady (Florence Henderson) loses her voice, just days before a lucky chance to sing a solo at her suburban Los Angeles church's Christmas service. Youngest daughter Cindy (Susan Olsen) hears the kid in front of her in line ask Santa Claus for a jillion things, so she tells Santa that all she wants is for her Mom to get her voice back. She does, singing "O Come, All Ye Faithful," making this episode of The Brady Bunch, "The Voice of Christmas," a happy one.
*

Christmas 1970: Felix Unger, a commercial photographer -- portraits a specialty -- asks his roommate, New York Herald sports columnist Oscar Madison, to play Scrooge in a neighborhood production of A Christmas Carol.

Oscar bah-humbugs the idea, until his awful diet produces a nightmare in which he actually is Scrooge, Felix becomes Jacob Marley, and "Ebenezer Madison" sees his Christmas Past, his Christmas Present, and a possible Christmas Future. This convinces him to do the play.

This episode of The Odd Couple was titled "Scrooge Gets an Oscar." Felix was played by Tony Randall, and Oscar by Jack Klugman. Sadly, Klugman died on a Christmas Eve, December 24, 2012.


Also on this day, Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) has to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at Minneapolis TV station WJM, and so it seems that her favorite holiday is completely ruined. However, on her Christmas Eve shift, her coworkers come to the rescue, bringing the holiday spirit to her, and proving that even if the holiday isn’t in line with tradition, it can still be a wonderful night full of bright spirits.


This episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show is titled "Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid II": It was a reference to the aforementioned episode of That Girl, written by James L. Brooks. Brooks also wrote this episode, or rather co-wrote it with Allan Burns.


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 in September 1972.


Also on this day, "Christmas Day at the Bunkers" in Flushing, Queens is not merry, as Archie (Carroll O'Connor) makes a mistake at work, sending an order to London, England when it should have been sent to London, Ontario. This costs him a Christmas bonus. This was the 1st Christmas episode of All In the Family.


Also on this day, Terry Vaughn (no middle name) is born in Sumter, South Carolina. A star receiver at the University of Arizona, he was not drafted by an NFL team, but became the 1st receiver in the Canadian Football League to catch 1,000 passes in a career.

He won the CFL Championship, the Grey Cup, with both Alberta teams, the 1998 Calgary Stampeders and the 2003 Edmonton Eskimos. He was named to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and TSN's (The Sports Network, Canada's version of ESPN) 50 Greatest CFL Players.

Also on this day, Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong is born in the Kensington section of 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."

Also on this day, Justin Trudeau is born in Montreal to Canada's Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, and his much-younger 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 Leader of the Liberal Party, his father did before him. On October 19, 2015, the Liberals were returned to power in a federal election, making Justin the Prime Minister, and making the Trudeaus Canada's 1st father-and-son national leaders since Britain's Kings George III and IV (and William IV, another son of George III).

Christmas 1972: Adrian Scott dies in the Los Angeles suburb of Sherman Oaks, California at age 60. The native of Kearny, Hudson County, New Jersey was a screenwriter, one of the "Hollywood Ten," blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, investigating Communist influence in the American film industry.

He produced 3 films directed by another of the Ten, Edward Dymytryk, all film noirs, including the 1944 film Murder, My Sweet. He had just begun to be credited under his own name again when he died, just barely beating the blacklist.

Christmas 1973: Bullet Joe Simpson dies at age 80 in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables, Florida. A defenseman, he starred for the Edmonton Eskimos of the West Coast Hockey League, winning that league's title in 1922, and advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost to the team now known as the Toronto Maple Leafs. He later starred for the NewYork Americans, and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Also on this day, Adrian Scott dies at age 61. A native of Kearny, New Jersey, he was one of the Hollywood Ten, performers, writers, producers and directors who accepted going to prison rather than testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee -- itself, one of the most un-American things in American history.

Also on this day, the film The Sting premieres, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  The theme song is Marvin Hamlisch's arrangement of Scott Joplin's 1902 song "The Entertainer" -- although my mother and a lot of people in her generation still call the song "The Sting."


Also on this day, in another All In the Family Christmas episode, titled "Edith's Christmas Story," Archie's wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) tries to keep the holiday going despite knowing that the doctor found a lump in her breast.


I don't know if this was the 1st time the word "breast" was used in prime time. Edith did survive the scare -- although Stapleton left the show (by then renamed Archie Bunker's Place) in 1980, and Edith's death was written into the series. No cause was given.

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 live in Pensacola, Florida, and have 3 children, all girls.


Also on this day, the rock band Iron Maiden is formed.


Christmas 1976, 40 years ago: Office of Scientific Intelligence Agent Steve Austin (Lee Majors), a former U.S. 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 in 1973 would be about $32 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 Stivic (Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner) invite David
, an old friend of Mike's living in Canada, but choose not to tell Gloria's parents Archie and Edith that the reason David went to Canada is that he is, as the episode's title states, "The Draft Dodger." He was played by Renny Temple, who has mostly directed since the late 1980s.

Unlike most of these Christmas episodes, this one actually did air on a December 25, a day on which networks usually show reruns, thinking families will be eating Christmas dinner at the time, or show "family entertainment" films and specials.


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, and accept being drafted. Pinky's son was killed, making Pinky a "Gold Star Father." Also a widower, Pinky was thus alone on Christmas, and Archie, in a gesture of humanity not often seen from him, thought Pinky could use the company.


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.


Also on this day, as neither man's faith celebrates Christmas, Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt meet in the latter's country, beginning the discussions that will lead to the Camp David Accords 9 months later.


Christmas 1978: It's Christmas Eve On Sesame Street. 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, which he thinks would be perfect for storing Bert's collection.

Then Mr. Hooper comes over and gives them presents: Bert gets his paper clips back, and Ernie gets his Duckie back. The boys, feeling guilty, 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."


Another main plotline is 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.


The other, much funnier subplot, tells of Cookie Monster trying to contact Santa Claus, to ask Big Red to bring him cookies for Christmas. The problem is, Cook keeps eating his means of communication. First, he ends up eating his pencil. Then he tries to type, but the typewriter keys remind him of raisins, and then the paper reminds him of fortune cookies. Finally, he tries to call Santa on the phone, but the ends of the receiver look like "cuppy-cakes" to him. Oddly, he claims to be allergic to peanut butter cookies and hazelnut cookies.

Bert and Cookie Monster were puppets 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. He turns 81 on the day after this Christmas, but still plays both roles. Yes, he still puts on the Big Bird costume.


Also on this day, Mindy McConnell (Pam Dawber) has to explain Christmas to alien Mork (Robin Williams). This episode of Mork & Mindy is titled, naturally, "Mork's First Christmas." Morgan Fairchild guest-stars.


Christmas 1979: Actress Joan Blondell dies of leukemia. She was 73, having been born on August 30, 1906 in New York, the same day and in the same city as my grandfather, George Goldberg, who later changed his name to George Golden. (His wife, my grandmother, Grace Darton, was born on the same day as actor Dennis Weaver, although not in the same city.)


As her name suggests, Joan Blondell was a blonde, and is best remembered for her "gold digger" roles in early 1930s films, including the legendary Busby Berkeley production Gold Diggers of 1933, in which she sings "We're In the Money" and "Remember My Forgotten Man."


*


Christmas 1980: Hazzard County Executive Jefferson Davis "Boss" Hogg (Sorrell Boke) hires a trio of criminals to hijack a load of Christmas trees bound for the Georgia locale, knowing that Bo and Luke Duke (John Schneider and Tom Wopat) were responsible for the deliveries, and for the receipt of a $500 down payment.


With the community convinced that the Duke Boys had stolen the funds, the crooks each dress as Santa Claus and break into Hogg's safe to retrieve the stolen money. Bo, Luke, their cousin Daisy (Catherine Bach) and their mechanic friend Cooter Davenport (Ben Jones) eventually team to give Hogg and the bad guys a lesson in confusion.


In the end, Hogg -- who has played a Scroogelike throughout the episode -- gets a lesson in the meaning of the season.  This episode of The Dukes of Hazzard is titled "The Great Santa Claus Chase."

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 Detective, 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.


Also on this day, Philadelphia commodities broker Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) learns of the scam pulled by Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche); and that his apparent tormentor, Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy), is also about to become a victim of the scam. He teams up with his butler Coleman (Denholm Elliott) and his prostitute girlfriend Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis), so that he and Billy Ray, and the Dukes (definitely richer and meaner than the "Duke Boys" of Hazzard), will be Trading Places.


Christmas 1983: Spanish artist Joan Miró dies of heart disease. He was 90. Yes, in the Spanish region of Catalonia, "Joan" is the masculine form of "John," so, unlike Joan Blondell, he was male.


Christmas 1984: Jessica Louise Orgliasso and Lisa Marie Origliasso are born in Albany Creek, Queensland, Australia. The twin sisters formed the singing duo The Veronicas.


Christmas 1988: New York Police Detective John McClane goes to Los Angeles to visit his estranged wife Holly, at the same time that Hans Gruber and his terrorists decide to rob her company of $640 million in bonds -- about $1.3 billion in today's money. The film is Die Hard. Ho ho ho and yippie-kai-yay.

Also on this day, the extended Tanner family of San Francisco gets stuck in snow-covered airport on Christmas. Middle daughter Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) is convinced that she won't get any Christmas presents, because now, Santa Claus won't be able to find her. But Santa shows up at the airport. At first, she thinks it's actually "Uncle" Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier) in disguise. It isn't.


This episode of Full House is titled "Our Very First Christmas Show," and it also features the first kiss between actual uncle Jesse Katsopolis (John Stamos) and Rebecca Donaldson (Lori Loughlin), co-host of the show-within-the-show Wake Up San Francisco along with Stephanie's father Danny (Bob Saget). Jesse and Rebecca, of course, eventually get married. Sorrell Booke, who played Boss Hogg on The Dukes of Hazzard, guest-stars.


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, outside Binghamton. 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 the thought of his family happier without him, Al wants to live again.


*


Christmas 1990: What would become known as the World Wide Web gets its 1st 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.


Also on this day, The Godfather Part III premieres. Yes, that's what you want to do on Christmas Day: Go see a Mob movie. And, unlike the first 2 parts, which are beloved classics, the 3rd time was definitely not the charm.


Also on this day, on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith (played by Will Smith) spends his first Christmas in Bel-Air. He wants to make himself feel a little more at home, and give his cousin Ashley Banks (Tatyana M. Ali) a taste of a real Christmas, so he decorates the Banks home in flashy, non-Home Owners Association approved decorations.


Naturally, the whole neighborhood -- which includes the 
newly-crowned Heavyweight Champion of the World, Evander Holyfield, who plays himself -- comes out in protest. Eventually, a group of neighborhood kids comes by to bestow an award for the best Christmas decorations in Bel-Air to the Banks and their "eyesore," because it has the whimsy of a child's idea of Christmas. The HOA gives up the fight, and Will chips away at another snobby Bel-Air tradition.

Also on this day, Garrett N. Cooper -- I can find no record of what the N. stands for -- is born in Auburn, Alabama, where his father was teaching at Auburn University. His father later got a teaching job in Los Angeles, and that's where Garrett grew up, although he returned to Auburn to play baseball. He is now a highly-regarded 1st base prospect for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Christmas 1991, 25 years ago: 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 1992: Monica Dickens, great-granddaughter of Christmas champion Charles Dickens, and a best-selling author and broadcaster in her own right, dies at age 77.

Also on this day, Arin Gilliland (no middle name) is born in Lexington, Kentucky. A left back, she plays for the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL).

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 a detective named John Kelly, 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.


Also on this day, the films Tombstone (centered on the 1881 Gunfight at the OK Corral), Philadelphia (about a man's fights with AIDS and the legal system) and Grumpy Old Men premiere. At least the last of those has snow and comedy in it.


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," not yet playing St. Nick in the Santa Clause movies, 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 substance that makes 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.


In the fictional Chicago satellite town of Lanford, Illinois, Becky Healey (Sarah Chalke, having replaced Lecy Goranson in the role), daughter of title character Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr), gets a job at Bunz (a ripoff of Hooters) to help put her husband Mark (Glenn Quinn) through college.

Becky's father Dan (John Goodman) and husband have never really gotten along, but, together, they put up Christmas decorations in such a fashion that it gives this episode its title: "White Trash Christmas." Why? To protest the neighborhood's newly-installed "white twinkle lights only" rule. That this plot was a twist on the aforementioned Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode seems to have escaped the Roseanne writers and producers.

Also on this day, the film I.Q. premieres. I would never have cast Walter Matthau as Albert Einstein, but he did a great job. Meg Ryan plays his niece (a character made up for the movie), Tim Robbins plays the decidedly "town not gown" mechanic who falls for her before finding out who her uncle is, and famously bald actor Keene Curtis plays President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The film was shot on location in Princeton, New Jersey, where Einstein lived the last 22 years of his life, teaching at the Institute for Advanced Study. There is a scene where Einstein is driving a Volkswagen Beetle convertible, with Little Richard's song "Tutti-Frutti" blasting out of the car radio. I don't think Einstein ever drove a car. If he did, I doubt it would be the Hitler-championed "People's Car," which was only beginning to become popular in America when Einstein died on April 18, 1955. And "Tutti-Frutti" wasn't recorded until September 14, 1955.

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 entry on Problematic Christmas Songs -- died on a December 25.

Christmas 1996, 20 years ago: 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.



Also on this day, a pair of not-exactly-family-holiday-friendly films is released. John Travolta stars as Michael. As the tagline says, "He's an angel – not a saint." Boy, am I glad this film didn't come out when I was in school. It could have: Thanks to Welcome Back, Kotter, Saturday Night Fever and Grease, Travolta was already a star.)


And Woody Harrelson stars in The People vs. Larry Flynt, while Richard Paul, a character actor who generally played chunky Southerners but was one of the best impressionists of his time, plays the Rev. Jerry Falwell. This is a film in which a redneck porn mogul is the good guy, and one of America's most famous clergymen is the bad guy. Great holiday-season film for the whole family.

Christmas 1997: Denver Pyle, best known as Uncle Jesse on The Dukes of Hazzard, dies of lung cancer at the age of 77.

Also on this day, Bill Hewitt dies in Port Perry, Ontario at age 68. The grandson of sportswriter W.A. Hewitt and the son of sportscaster Foster Hewitt, he was a longtime TV voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs. As far as I know, the Hewitts are the only family with 3 generations in any sport's Hall of Fame.

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, breaking naughty if not outright bad), 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."


In a previous episode, Jerry came to the conclusion that Watley had converted just so he could tell Jewish jokes and use Yiddish words with impunity. Asked by a priest, "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 urging from Kramer, his former, noncommercial December holiday. "This is the best Festivus ever!" he yells during "The Feats of Strength." This episode is titled "The Strike."


Christmas 1998: Just Shoot Me! airs "How the Finch Stole Christmas," narrated by Kelsey Grammer (Frasier Crane on Cheers and Frasier), 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.

The episode also has 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.



Also on this day, Alec Baldwin hosts Saturday Night Live. He participates in the recurring sketch in which Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon play Margaret Jo McCullen and Teri Rialto, hosts of the fictional National Public Radio show The Delicious Dish. Baldwin plays noted baker Pete Schweddy, who has made a Christmas treat: Assortments of spherical treats made out of anything from meat to cake to candy. He calls them "Schweddy Balls," and sells them in a little bag he calls a "Schweddy Ball Sack."

The episode aired on December 12, 1998, just 1 week before President Bill Clinton (then played by Darrell Hammond) was impeached for... I don't know, something apparently worse than letting the Russian government steal a Presidential election from Bill's wife. The monologue shows Baldwin deciding that he can't do the show that night, because the whole impeachment saga is ruining his Christmas spirit.

So John Goodman -- who, along with Steve Martin, appears to be in a running competition with Baldwin for the record for most SNL apperances outside of the regular cast -- playing the Ghost of Christmas Future. He shows Baldwin what happens right before Christmas 2011: The host is Jimmy Fallon (a current castmember in 1998), and he's making fun of Baldwin. Goodman, prematurely aged, is shown as a current castmember. (It was possible: Billy Crystal and some others were regulars for a year after they'd already been big stars.) And the announce was "Robot Dan Pardo," as it was presumed that the real Pardo, who'd been working for NBC since getting a radio job in 1938, wouldn't still be announcing at age 93. Anyway, it shocks Baldwin into going ahead with the show.

Unfortunately, also on this date, the aforementioned Richard Paul dies of cancer. He was only 58. Had he lived a little longer, he could have played a nasty Southern politician on The West Wing, the way he played a nice but clueless Southern Mayor on the sitcom Carter Country in the late 1970s, and a considerably smarter New England Mayor on Murder, She Wrote.

Christmas 1999: White House Director of Communications Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) discovers that a homeless man, who'd received a winter coat that Toby had donated, 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 Andrew and Simon had been killed in Vietnam -- on Christmas Eve, 1970. The episode of The West Wing is titled "In Excelsis Deo."


*


Christmas 2000: A darker episode of The West Wing, titled "Noel," 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 a 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, 15 years ago: Or, rather, 2 days before. In "Bartlet For America," 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. Washington Post White House correspondent 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. (The series would close by showing C.J. and Danny married with a baby.)


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 having worked for the long-defunct Brooklyn-based Jewish organized-crime outfit Murder, Incorporated, visits, and they have to tie up loose ends. The episode is titled "Holy Night."


Christmas 2003: The Bartlets, President Jed and First Lady Abbey (Stockard Channing), are still dealing with the repercussions -- including with each other -- of the kidnapping of Zoey (Elisabeth Moss) the preceding Spring.  It is not clear whether daughters Liz (Annabeth Gish) and Ellie (Nina Siemaszko) will come to the White House for Christmas. In the end, they all do.


Jed remembers a trip to Egypt: "Saw the Pyramids and Luxor, and then headed up into the Sinai. We had a guide, a Bedouin man, who called me 'Abu el Banat.' And whenever we'd meet another Bedouin, he'd introduce me as 'Abu el Banat.' And the Bedouin would laugh and laugh, and offer me a cup of tea. And I'd go to pay them for the tea, and they wouldn't let me. 'Abu el Banat' means 'Father of daughters.' They thought the tea was the least they could do." "Abu el Banat" is also the title of the episode.


In the Los Angeles suburbs of Orange County, California, the setting of the teen angst drama The O.C., mixed Christian and Jewish families celebrate a combination of Christmas and Hannukkah, which they call "Chrismukkah," which is also the title of the episode. The way it's explained is supposedly hilarious.

Christmas 2004: The Aviator premieres. Yeah, that's what you want to do on Christmas Day: Go see a movie about a nut like Howard Hughes. Leonardo DiCaprio pulls it off, though.

Also superbly bringing screen legends back to life are Katharine Hepburn by Cate Blanchett, Ava Gardner by Kate Beckinsale, and No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow.



Another film premiering on this day is a live-action version of Fat Albert. Albert and the Cosby Kids are brought from cartoons into "the real world," and Albert (played by Kenan Thompson) meets his maker. No, he doesn't die: He meets Bill Cosby, who faints upon seeing him for the first time. Of course, having heard what we've now heard about Cosby, it's hard to see him as either the creator of Fat Albert or Dr. Cliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show.

Christmas 2005: The West Wing skipped over an entire year of the Bartlet Presidency, and jumped ahead to the end of Year 7 for an episode titled "Impact Winter." While the President suffers a paralyzing multiple sclerosis attack on a state visit to China, there is concern that an asteroid might hit Earth, resulting in the worst-case scenario, the phenomenon described by the episode's title.

While both crises are averted, Josh realizes that Year 8 is going to be an election year, and someone has to take the baton for Year 9. He thinks he's found his man, Congressman Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits), and shows up on Santos' doorstep in Houston, as a "ghost of Christmas yet to come." There was no Christmas episode for Season 7/Year 8.

Elsewhere in Washington, The Jeffersonian Institute 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, 10 years ago: James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, dies of pneumonia. He was 73.


In the "Great holiday-season film for the whole family" department this was the premiere date for Black Christmas, Notes On a Scandal, and Children of Men. Okay, the last of these did feature the birth of a baby that signaled a new hope for humanity.

Christmas 2008: For the 1st 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 of cancer. 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. She was 81.


Christmas 2009: al-Qaeda operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old native of Nigeria, tries and fails to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253, going from Amsterdam, the Netherlands to Detroit. Because he failed, the plane landed safely, and all 289 people on board (aside from him) survived.


"The Underwear Bomber," having one of the most ridiculous nicknames of any criminal ever, is now surviving multiple life sentences at the "supermax" federal prison in Florence, Colorado.


*

Christmas 2011: Jimmy Fallon, now the host of NBC's Late Night (and, starting in 2014, The Tonight Show), hosts Saturday Night Live. And makes jokes about Alec Baldwin. Who shows up.

The prophecy from 1998 doesn't fully come true, however: Don Pardo was still alive and announcing for the show. He died in 2014, at age 96, after 76 years of working for NBC, and was replaced as announcer by former castmember Darrell Hammond -- who had played Bill Clinton in that 1998 episode.

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.

Christmas 2013: A man dressed as Santa Claus -- the brother of the husband of a friend of my sister's -- showed up at my sister's apartment, and presented my 6-year-old nieces Ashley and Rachel with new bicycles. They were so happy. This was the best Christmas ever!


Or it will be, until they can do something like that for their own children. Or even, God willing, before that can happen, they could help me do it for their cousin, my own as yet hypothetical child.


Christmas 2014: This was my first Christmas without my father. He was the hardest person in the family to shop for, but I'd take that problem in a heartbeat if it meant still having him around to shop for.


Christmas 2016: This will be the first Christmas for my niece Mackenzie, born 7 months ago. She's into it: She loves looking at Christmas trees, and other things with Christmas lights.

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.

2 comments:

Kay C. said...

You had me up until you blamed the Russians for HRC's disastrous campaign & loss... Sometimes it's best to leave your political leanings by the wayside & stick with REAL facts. Considering I know hackers who are even more American than apple pie & Uncle Sam's beloved whiskers & had seen plenty of hacking attempts that I followed back to being sent from some VERY "liberal" colleges/universities; I'm of the kind that Google password reset was sent by some smartass kid who wasn't invited to the hand-wringing & bedwetting protests. Then there's that whole mysterious "robbery-murder" of Seth Rich where he wasn't robbed & just murdered... I'm happy Trump was elected so we can go back to laughing at politicians & not having EVERYONE screeching "THAT'S RAAAAAAAAAAAAACIST" at every turn. Uncle Mike, you had some interesting points & historical facts but you basically screwed the pooch by being eager to buy into the media's explanation as to why Hillary lost. Don't forget, she LOVED Russians!!! She gave them a buttload of uranium & took millions of dollars in "donations" from Russia's rich. She ran a rigged game & lost. Americans were fed up with liars & cheats. Nothing more, nothing less.

Uncle Mike said...

Don't you dare tell me what to write on my blog. I told the truth, and you don't know what the hell the truth is, you lying shrew.