25 Non-Christmasy Things That Have Happened on December 25

iStock.com/MicroStockHub
iStock.com/MicroStockHub

Over the years, lots of amazing things have happened on December 25. The birth of Jesus Christ, however, was not one of them. J.C.'s arrival—the precise timing of which remains unknown—wasn’t pegged to 12/25 until 336 CE. While it’s certainly come to dominate its calendar square, Christmas isn’t the only reason to celebrate the date. What follows are 25 other incidents and milestones that make December 25 a day worth commemorating with silly songs and colored lights.

1. 597 // The Julian Calendar reintroduced to England

Originally taking effect in 45 BCE and traditionally considered reintroduced to England in 597, it took a little over 200 years for England to fully commit to Julius Caesar's preferred means of measuring time (and they were nearly another 200 years behind the rest of Europe in switching over to the Gregorian calendar in the 1750s). At least Caesar’s hairstyle, on the other hand, never goes out of style.

2. 800 // Charlemagne crowned Holy Roman emperor

In his role, the man also known as Charles the Great and "the father of Europe" helped to foster the Carolingian Renaissance—a glorious explosion of culture and intellect nobody has ever heard of.

3. 1492 // Christopher Columbus's Santa Maria sinks on Hispanola

Ol’ Chris turned lemons to lemonade, using timber from the ship to build a fort near the modern Haitian town of Limonade.

4. 1741 // Astronomer Anders Celsius introduces the Centigrade scale

Some 270 years later, Americans still don’t know what the hell those numbers mean.

5. 1758 // Return of Halley's Comet first sighted

German farmer and amateur astronomer Johann Georg Palitzsch spotted the fireball, confirming Edmond Halley’s theory of 76-year cycles. Before that, everyone had figured it was driven by willy-nilly by demons or elves or something.

6. 1776 // George Washington crosses the Delaware River and defeats 1400 Hessians

He kept telling his men what a righteous painting it would make one day.

7. 1809 // Physician Ephraim McDowell performs the first abdominal surgery in the U.S.

He removed a 22 pound ovarian tumor, but the hardest part was probably getting insurance approval.

8. 1843 // First-ever theater matinee presented at The Olympic in New York City

This would’ve been a good day to get on the waitlist for Hamilton tickets.

9. 1868 // President Andrew Johnson grants unconditional pardon to Confederate veterans of the Civil War

And then, a few days later, he celebrated his 60th birthday by throwing a party for 300 of his grandchildren's closest friends.

10. 1873 // Thomas Edison marries his first wife

Mary Stillwell was just 16 when she wed the inventor, who apparently neglected his family in favor of his work. Unless you live in a house without light bulbs, don’t judge.

11. 1896 // John Philip Sousa composes "Stars and Stripes Forever"

The magnum opus of the "March King" was declared the official march of the United States in 1987.

12. 1930 // The Mt. Van Hoevenberg Bobsled Run at Lake Placid, New York opens to the public

America’s first bobsled track built to international standards is on the National Register of Historic Places. Sadly, the gift shop doesn’t sell "I’m a Luger, Baby" T-shirts.

13. 1931 // The Metropolitan Opera broadcasts its first full opera over the radio

The show was Engelbert Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel, and a critic/color commentator talked through most of it.

14. 1946 // Jimmy Buffett was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi

He was promptly swaddled in Hawaiian shirts, baptized in tequila, and worshipped by future yuppies in the nursery.

15. 1959 // Ringo Starr gets his first drum kit

If Pete Best ever gets a time machine, he’s making sure Richard Starkey gets a tuba instead.

16. 1962 // The film version of To Kill a Mockingbird is released

The trial portion of the film takes up twice as much time as in the book because star Gregory Peck demanded more screen time.

17. 1967 // Paul McCartney and Jane Asher announce their engagement

The pair never wed, but Asher can say she inspired such Beatles classics as "And I Love Her" and "Here, There and Everywhere." Plus, she avoided being in Wings.

18. 1968 // Apollo 8 finished its successful moon orbit

Nothing terrible happened, which is why you’ve never seen a movie about it.

19. 1977 // Charlie Chaplin dies

Thanks to his iconic "Tramp" character, the silent film star remains a hero to well-meaning bumblers with funny mustaches.

20. 1985 // Longest-ever battery-powered car trip ends

Two blokes in a Freight Rover Leyland Sherpa drove Great Britain from bottom (Land’s End) to top (John o' Groat's, Scotland) in four days, likely singing Wham! all the way.

21. 1989 // Scientists in Japan achieve -271.8° C, the coldest temperature ever recorded

This was a full 10 degrees colder than a brass toilet seat in the Yukon.

22. 1991 // Gorbachev resigns as president of the USSR

Six years later, he starred in a Pizza Hut commercial.

23. 1997 // Jerry Seinfeld announces his namesake sitcom will end in the spring

Seinfeld taught us we’re all terrible people living meaningless lives. We miss it still.

24. 2002 // Katie Hnida becomes the first woman to play in a Division I college football game

The New Mexico University placekicker attempted an extra point against UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl, but it was blocked. There’s probably a metaphor in there somewhere.

25. 2006 // James Brown dies

The "hardest working man in showbiz" finally got a break.

All images via Getty. This article originally ran in 2016.

15 Scientific Ways to Relax for National Relaxation Day

iStock/anyaberkut via Getty Images
iStock/anyaberkut via Getty Images

Today is National Relaxation Day, so you have a great excuse to take it easy. Here’s how science can help you have the most laid-back day of the year.

1. Get a house or office plant.

Spending time in nature improves your overall wellbeing, but it turns out even just a little greenery is great for your health. Studies have shown patients in hospital rooms with plants report lower stress. Even just stepping into a lush space can reduce your heart rate. Plus, plants are effective at increasing oxygen and clearing out toxins, which should help you breathe easier—literally.

2. Avoid screens before bedtime.

Artificial light from TV and computer screens affects melatonin production and throws off circadian rhythms, which messes with your sleep. Studies have found that young adults were more likely to suffer from sleep disorders, high stress and even depression if they reported intensive use of cell phones and computers at night.

3. Eat a banana.

Potassium helps your body regulate blood pressure. Keeping that under control should help you bounce back more quickly from what’s got you stressed.

4. Indulge in some citrus.

Still hungry after that chocolate and banana? Try citrus. Recent studies show that vitamin C helps to alleviate the physical and psychological effects of stress.

5. Listen to classical music.

Portrait of a beautiful young woman lying on sofa with headphones on and closed eyes, relaxing
BartekSzewczyk/iStock via Getty Images

Any music you enjoy is bound to make you feel better, but classical music, in particular, has been shown to slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and even decrease levels of stress hormones.

6. Drink green tea sweetened with honey.

Green tea contains L-theanine, which reduces stress, and honey—unlike cane sugar—has been shown to counteract free radicals and reduce inflammation, which is sometimes linked to depression.

7. Give yourself a hand massage.

Especially if you spend all day typing, hands can get really tense. A quick massage should be doable at your desk and if you incorporate some lavender-scented lotion, you’ll get extra relaxation benefits.

8. Lock lips with someone.

Romance is relaxing! Kissing releases oxytocin, a chemical that is shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

9. Chew some gum.

No matter what flavor it is, the act of chewing gum has been proven to lower cortisol and improve reported mood.

10. Blow up a balloon.

Young woman blowing up a blue balloon against a yellow background
Deagreez/iStock via Getty Images

Reacting to stress with short, shallow breaths will only exacerbate the problem—your body needs more oxygen, not less, to relax. Blowing up a balloon will help you refocus on your breathing. No balloons around? Just concentrate on taking a few deep breaths.

11. Mow the lawn.

Research shows that a chemical released by a mowed lawn—that fresh-cut grass smell—makes people feel happy and relaxed. Plus, knocking it off your to-do list will give you one less thing to stress about.

12. Find something to make you laugh.

Watching a funny video online does more than just brighten your afternoon, it physically helps to relax you by increasing the endorphins released by your brain.

13. Grab some chocolate.

What’s also good at releasing endorphins? Chocolate. Studies show that even just 40 grams of dark chocolate a day can help you de-stress.

14. Focus on relaxing all of your muscles.

Take a break from whatever you’re doing and, starting at your toes and working upwards, spend a few moments slowly tensing, and then releasing, the muscles of each part of your body.

15. Take a mental vacation.

Man takes a break from work to meditate at his laptop
AaronAmat/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, take a moment to close your eyes and picture a particularly relaxing scene. It may sound cheesy, but numerous studies show that just a few minutes of disengaging from your stressors rejuvenates your ability to tackle the work.

5 Fascinating Facts About Middle Children

francisgonsa/iStock via Getty Images
francisgonsa/iStock via Getty Images

Full House's perpetually neglected Stephanie Tanner, The Brady Bunch's embittered Jan Brady, Downton Abbey's tragedy-prone Lady Edith Crawley: For many people, these are the images that pop into their heads when thinking of the stereotypical middle child. In TV shows and movies, they’re often used as comic relief, always stuck in the shadow of their other, seemingly more important siblings. But the reality is far more generous to middle children.

Studies have shown that middle children are exceedingly independent and creative, with certain leadership qualities that their firstborn and last-born counterparts can’t match. Some of our most important world leaders, artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs occupy this oft-mocked middle spot, but from most accounts, it’s a breeding ground for success. Here are five fascinating facts about middle children.

1. Middle children may be endangered.

There was a time during the first half of the 20th century when having three to four children was seen as the ideal number for parents, with 35 percent of moms between 40 and 44 having four children or more. Those numbers have been reversing for several decades—and now, the average American family consists of 3.14 people. On top of that, only 12 percent of women in their early forties have four children or more.

More people are going to college, taking longer to become financially settled, have easier access to birth control, and are embarking on demanding careers that put family life on the back burner. In addition to having children later in life, the average cost of raising a child has increased dramatically over the generations, so one or two kids might be all some couples can afford. These factors all add up to create smaller families, which means we’ll likely see fewer middle children throughout the country in future decades if these trends continue. And without them, we’ll lose out on all of the remarkable traits seen below.

2. Middle children can have first-rate negotiation skills.

Despite the common perception of middle children being resentful of their siblings and never getting enough attention from their parents, Katrin Schumann, co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children, has done extensive research on the subject that found the plight of middle children may actually be a positive thing later in life. One such trait is their ability to negotiate.

“Middles are used to not getting their own way, and so they become savvy, skillful manipulators,” Schumann told Psychology Today. “They can see all sides of a question and are empathetic and judge reactions well. They are more willing to compromise, and so they can argue successfully. Since they often have to wait around as kids, they’re more patient.”

3. Their low self-esteem might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Yes, the middle child may suffer from low self-esteem when compared to their siblings, due to their “their lack of uniqueness and attention at home,” according to Schumann. However, this doesn’t have to be a negative thing as it helps keep their ego in check.

“Also, self-esteem is not as critical as our society believes,” Schumann explained. “Having an accurate sense of your self-esteem is more important than having high self-esteem. Surprisingly, new studies show that high self-esteem does not correlate with better grades in school or greater success in life. It can actually lead to a lack of perseverance in the face of difficulties.”

4. Middle children tend to be faithful in their relationships.

Dr. Catherine Salmon, Schumann's co-author on The Secret Power of Middle Children, found that 80 percent of middle children claimed they have never cheated on their partner. This is compared to 65 percent of firstborns and 53 percent of last-borns who said they were never unfaithful to their long-term partner or spouse. This, of course, led to separate studies confirming that middle children, and their spouses, were happiest in marriage when compared to other birth orders.

There is a catch, however: Schumann said that while middle children may be the happiest and make for satisfied partners, two middle children might not make an ideal match: "An Israeli marital happiness survey shows that middles are the happiest and most satisfied in relationships, and that they partner well with firsts or lasts—but less well with other middles, because they may both avoid conflict."

5. Some of history's most important leaders were middle children.

Though the conventional numbers have established that most U.S. presidents are firstborns, Schumann contends that half of our Commanders-in-Chief are actually middle children. In an interview with NPR, she revealed that the connection between the presidency and middle children was obscured for years because of one strange quirk: firstborn girls weren’t traditionally counted as older siblings. Instead, firstborns were only taken into consideration when it came to males.

In general, it's difficult to nail down certain presidential birth orders, as the middle child blog SmackDab puts it: "George Washington’s father had four children with his first wife before the first President was born. Washington was the first of six children from his father’s second marriage. So was he the first born or the fifth born?" Still, if we're to take conventional wisdom and a loose definition of what a middle child is (basically anyone not the oldest or the youngest), then it turns out that 52 percent of presidents were born in the middle, including Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln.

It's JFK in particular, Schumann concluded, who displayed many of the traits typical of a middle child during his years in office, citing his ability to communicate and negotiate even under the most stressful of conditions.

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