December 30th 1865: Rudyard Kipling born

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On this day in 1865, the English writer Rudyard Kipling was born. Kipling was born in Bombay and in later life wrote frequently about British soldiers in India. However he is best known for his book for children ‘The Jungle Book’. ‘The Jungle Book’ is a collection of short stories and was published in 1894.The book inspired the 1967 Disney film. Kipling was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907. Kipling died in 1936 aged 70.

 

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The Jungle Book remains a very popular story, mostly due to the Disney film adaptation. However Kipling’s literary prowess is still respected and he is considered one of Britain’s finest writers.

December 29th 1170: Thomas Becket killed

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Depiction of Becket’s murder

 

On this day in 1170 Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was assassinated. He became Archbishop in 1162 after the death of Archbishop Theobald of Bec. Becket was killed inside Canterbury Cathedral by men loyal to King Henry II, with whom Becket was in a feud over the rights and privileges of the Church. Becket excommunicated various opponents to his church, which angered the King. It appears that some knights believed the King gave them a command to kill Becket, and thus did so. Becket is considered a saint and a martyr by the Catholic Church.

 

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King Henry II (1133 – 1189)

“For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death”
– Becket’s last words, according to eyewitness Edward Grim

December 28th 1832: John C. Calhoun resigns

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John C. Calhoun (1782 – 1850)

 

On this day in 1832, John C. Calhoun became the first Vice President of the United States to resign from office. He had served four years as Vice President under John Quincy Adams and then again under Adams’s successor Andrew Jackson. However, Calhoun split with Jackson on many issues and their feud became so great that Calhoun resigned in 1832 and ran for the Senate. Known for his pro-slavery views, Calhoun was a hero to the future secessionists in the American Civil War which began 11 years after his death in 1850.

 

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Calhoun’s grave in Charleston

December 27th 1911: Jana Gana Mana first sung

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Indian flag

On this day in 1911, the Indian national anthem (‘Jana Gana Mana’) was first sung in the Calcutta Session of the Indian National Congress. The song was written by Rabindranath Tagore, who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. The anthem was first sung a few days before King George V was to arrive in India, and some reporters erroneously claimed it was a tribute to him, rather than a celebration of India. ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was officially adopted as the Indian national anthem on January 24th 1950.

 

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Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941)

A national anthem has always been forefront in establishing a national identity. Be it La Marseillaise, Deutschland Uber Alles or Jana Gana Mana, national anthems unite people around a common identity. Whilst it took another 36 years for India to achieve independence, Indian nationalism has much older roots.

December 26th 1966: First Kwanzaa

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A 2003 Kwanzaa celebration – Karenga is in the middle

On this day in 1966, the first Kwanzaa celebration took place. Kwanzaa is a holiday which is observed from December 26th to January 1st, and celebrates African-American culture. It was created by Maulana Karenga partly in response to a riot in a black neighborhood of Los Angeles which killed 34 and injured many more. Karenga wanted to “give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society”.

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Maulana Karenga

Best wishes to all of those celebrating Kwanzaa this year!

Merry Christmas!

Hello everyone, I just wanted to wish you a happy Christmas!

As I’ve only just started this blog, and I’ll be the first to admit it has ample room for improvement, I really appreciate those of you who follow this blog.

Thanks again and have a wonderful day

December 24th 1914: Christmas Truce

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German and British troops play football during the truce

On this day in 1914, troops across the Western Front during the First World War laid down their arms. Soldiers from all sides participated in the widespread, unofficial ceasefires for the Christmas period. Troops, mostly German and British, exchanged Christmas greetings, songs and even gifts. Both sides also held joint burials where they mourned both their dead. They met in ‘no man’s land’, an area which was usually deadly. The truce began on this day in 1914 when German troops near Ypres decorated their trenches and sang carols, which led to responses from the British troops. As the war progressed, and the violence increased, suspicion grew between the two sides and superiors were stricter about ‘fraternisation with the enemy’ and so less truces were held.

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Troops from both sides meet for a conversation during the truce

As the world today is rocked by numerous wars, especially those in the Middle East and Africa, we can remember this poignant example of humanity and peace in a horrific and violent situation. We are approaching the centenary of the start of the First World War and it is important to note not just the violence and barbarity of the war, but also the way soldiers retained their humanity and compassion. Our Christmas celebrations may be a far cry from what happened on the Western Front in December 1914, but we can certainly feel a connection to these carol singing, gift-giving soldiers.

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A cross commemorating the site of the Truce

December 23rd 1823: ‘The Night Before Christmas’ published

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Clement Clarke Moore (1799 – 1863)

 

On this day in 1823, the poem‘ A Visit from St. Nicholas’ or ‘The Night Before Christmas’ was published anonymously in a local newspaper in New York state. The poem is now considered to have been written by Clement Clarke Moore, who accepted authorship in 1844. Moore supposedly wrote the poem for his children, and as a distinguished professor did not want to be publicly associated with the poem. However debates endure as to the poem’s true authorship. The poem helped to establish in popular imagination the idea of Santa Claus.

 

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Handwritten version of the poem

 

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there”

 

(read the full  poem here)

December 22nd 1943: Beatrix Potter dies

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Beatrix Potter (1866 – 1943)

 

On this day in 1943, the famous English author Beatrix Potter died. She is best known for her children’s books like ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’. Potter was born in London in 1866 to a wealthy family. She began her career as an illustrator and in 1901 published The Tale of Peter Rabbit which she wrote and illustrated. Upon her death in Near Sawrey, Cumbria, Potter left almost all her property to the National Trust. She is thus credited with preserving much of the land that is now the Lake District National Park.

 

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Peter Rabbit

 

Beatrix Potter’s stories remain a staple of many children’s lives. I myself remember reading her books at an early age, and I don’t think my childhood would have been the same without Peter Rabbit! Do any of you have any fond memories of reading Potter’s books?