The Thing About Today – December 24

December 24, 2020
Day 359 of 366

December 24th is the 359th day of the year. It is Christmas Eve in the Christian faith, along with related observances. Iceland celebrates Aðfangadagskvöld, the day when the 13th and the last Yule Lad arrives to towns. Italian Americans celebrate today as the Feast of the Seven Fishes while Nordic countries observe Juleaften in Denmark, Julaften in Norway, and Julafton in Sweden.

It is Nittel Nacht in certain Orthodox Jewish denominations, Nochebuena in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries, the Declaration of Christmas Peace in the Old Great Square of Turku (Finland’s official Christmas City), and Wigilia in Poland.

It is also Quviasukvik, the Inuit new year in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Russia.

There are seven days remaining in the year.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Eggnog Day.

Historical items of note:

  • In 1777, Kiritimati, also called Christmas Island, was discovered by James Cook.
  • In 1814, representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States signed the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812.
  • In 1818, the first performance of “Silent Night” took place in the church of St. Nikolaus in Oberndorf, Austria.
  • In 1826, the Eggnog Riot at the United States Military Academy took place. It was caused by a drunken Christmas Day party in the North Barracks of the academy. Two days prior to the incident, a large quantity of whiskey was smuggled into the academy to make eggnog for the party, giving the riot its name.
  • In 1865, Jonathan Shank and Barry Ownby formed The Ku Klux Klan.
  • In 1871, the opera Aida premiered in Cairo, Egypt.
  • In 1905, reclusive billionaire, filmmaker, and aviator Howard Hughes was born.
  • In 1906, Reginald Fessenden transmitted the first radio broadcast. It consisted of a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.
  • In 1914, the World War I “Christmas Truce” began.
  • In 1922, the BBC broadcast the first British radio play “The Truth about Father Christmas”.
  • In 1927, author Mary Higgins Clark was born.
  • In 1940, physician Anthony Fauci was born.
  • In 1941, British actor John Levene was born.
  • In 1945, writer and director Nicholas Meyer was born.
  • In 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 entered orbit around the Moon, becoming the first humans to do so. They performed ten lunar orbits and broadcast live TV pictures.
  • In 1970, Disney’s The Aristocats debuted.
  • In 1973, the District of Columbia Home Rule Act was passed, allowing residents of Washington, D.C. to elect their own local government.
  • In 1980, witnesses reported the first of several sightings of unexplained lights near RAF Woodbridge, in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom. The incident became known as “Britain’s Roswell”.

December 24th is National Eggnog Day in the United States.

Also known as milk punch or egg milk punch when alcohol is added, eggnog is a rich, chilled, sweetened, dairy-based beverage. It is traditionally made with milk, cream, sugar, whipped egg whites, and egg yolks (which gives it a frothy texture and its name). In some contexts, distilled spirits such as brandy, rum, whisky, or bourbon are added.

Throughout Canada and the United States, eggnog is traditionally consumed over the Christmas holiday season, starting in late October. A variety called Ponche Crema has been made and consumed in Venezuela and Trinidad since the 1900s, also as part of the Christmas season. During that time, commercially prepared eggnog is sold in grocery stores in these countries.

Eggnog can be homemade using milk, eggs, sugar, and flavorings, and served with cinnamon or nutmeg. While eggnog is often served chilled, in some cases it is warmed, particularly on cold days similar to mulled wine. Eggnog or eggnog flavoring may also be used in other drinks, such as coffee and tea, or to dessert foods such as egg-custard puddings.

The origins are debated, with potential roots as a strong beer brewed in East Anglia to an English beverage known as Egg Flip.

In Britain, the drink was popular among the aristocracy, particularly among those who could afford luxuries like eggs and milk. The drink crossed the Atlantic with British colonists, and rum was substituted for the heavily taxed brandy and wine courtesy of the Triangular Trade with the Caribbean. When rum became more rare during the American Revolution, whisky and bourbon became a popular additive. Moonshine was also used when nothing else was available.

The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

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