Christmas Day has long been celebrated as a special day, but in terms of American history, two particular Christmas Days have had a dramatic effect on our future.
In 1861, on Christmas Day, as the Civil War was entering its second year, it seemed as if the United States was about to go to war with Great Britain, due to the Trent Affair, the seizure of two Confederate agents, James Mason and John Slidell, from a British ship by the crew of an American ship, the San Jacinto.
Instead, the cabinet of President Abraham Lincoln agreed that it was better to release the two Confederate agents, as fighting a two front war against the South and Great Britain would be a losing proposition. It would have made it more likely that the Confederate States of America would have won its independence, and the United States might have been occupied by Great Britain, and transformed our history in a tragic fashion.
Also, in 1991, on Christmas Day, the Soviet Union’s leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, declared the end of the 74 year experiment in Communist dictatorship, and the breakup of the Soviet Union into separate nations, with the largest being the Russian Federation led by Boris Yeltsin.
This was a courageous act by Gorbachev, and was the final end of the nearly fifty year Cold War, seemingly allowing peace in the world, and America without a major competing nation for world leadership.
Unfortunately, the optimism would not last, as Middle East terrorism became the new challenge for the United States and the Western world, in many ways a greater threat than Communism had been.
But both Christmas Days, 1861 and 1991, 150 years ago and 20 years ago respectively, had a massive impact on our history!