Looking Back…Christmas Edition

In the past when I have written these “Looking Back” posts, they have always been science-oriented. However, not much science has apparently happened in recorded history on this day, perhaps because so many people take this day off to spend it with their family and loved ones. So I thought I would share a few historical events that occurred on Christmas Day that spread the message of hope and peace (and one science event because I really just can’t resist.)

World Wide Web
Creative Commons License photo credit: Bull3t

On Christmas Day of 1990 (you get your science fact first today) developers executed the first successful trial run of the system that would later become the World Wide Web, including an early web browser, the first web server, and the first web pages, which described the project. The web went public on August 6, 1991 – less than a year later. Less than 20 years later, we have billions of websites on every topic imaginable, and most youths can’t imagine their lives without the internet superhighway.

And now for the history…

On Christmas Day, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the President of the Soviet Union. The very next day Ukraine left the Soviet Union, and the Union “collapsed.” This ended the Cold War that had existed between the US and the Soviet Union since the mid 1940s.

On Christmas Day, 1977, Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin met with Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, to discuss a peace treaty between their two countries. The two neighboring states had been fighting on and off since the formation of Israel in 1948. On March 26, 1979 the two countries announced a peace treaty that still exists today. The two leaders also received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ninetta mia crepare di maggio ci vuole tanto troppo coraggio
Creative Commons License photo credit: khyes

On Christmas Day, 1914, German and British troops on the Western Front of World War I called a temporary cease-fire. Against the orders of their superiors, all artillery fire stopped along the line. The truce had started in some places the night before, as German troops began decorating their trenches and singing Christmas carols in German. The Scottish troops across the battlefield responded by singing carols in English. Soon, troops began to leave the trenches and to socialize in the area between the two sides, exchanging drinks and cigars. In one area, the troops met outside the trenches and began a game of soccer (it is rumored the Germans won 3-2.) In some places along the lines the fighting resumed the next day, but in others the truce lasted until after the New Year. Although the war saw three more Christmases, no widespread cease-fires were ever called again.

Happy holidays!