25 Non-Christmasy Things That Have Happened on December 25

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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.

Why Are There No Snakes in Ireland?

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iStock

Legend tells of St. Patrick using the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea. It’s an impressive image, but there’s no way it could have happened.

There never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica: the Emerald Isle is, well, an island.

Eightofnine via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that time was an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, pouring even more cold water into the now-impassable expanse between Ireland and its neighbors.

Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, managed to make it across—as did a single reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

The country’s serpent-free reputation has, somewhat perversely, turned snake ownership into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. As of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild—a small miracle in itself.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

If March 15 Is the Ides of March, What Does That Make March 16?

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iStock.com/bycostello

Everyone knows that the soothsayer in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar was talking about March 15 when he warned the Roman emperor to "beware the Ides of March." We also all know Caesar's response: "Nah, I gotta head into the office that day." But if March 15 is the Ides of March, what does that make March 16?

At the time of Caesar's assassination, Romans were using the Julian calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar himself). This was a modified version of the original Roman calendar, and it is very similar to the one we use today (which is called the Gregorian calendar). A major difference, however, was how Romans talked about the days.

Each month had three important dates: the Kalends (first day of the month), the Ides (the middle of the month), and the Nones (ninth day before the Ides, which corresponded with the first phase of the Moon). Instead of counting up (i.e., March 10, March 11, March 12), Romans kept track by counting backwards and inclusively from the Kalends, Ides, or Nones. March 10 was the sixth day before the Ides of March, March 11 was the fifth day before the Ides of March, and so on.

Because it came after the Ides, March 16 would’ve been referred to in the context of April: "The 17th day before the Kalends of April." The abbreviated form of this was a.d. XVII Kal. Apr., with "a.d." standing for ante diem, meaning roughly "the day before."

So, had Julius Caesar been murdered on March 16, the soothsayer's ominous warning would have been, "Beware the 17th day before the Kalends of April." Doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

This story first ran in 2016.

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