In addition to the religious significance of Christmas, Americans share an excellent historical reason to celebrate this day.
In January of 1776, Thomas Paine published his smash hit, “Common Sense.” This pamphlet galvanized public opinion in favor of the American Revolution, which had begun the previous year at Lexington and Concord with the shot heard ’round the world.
That July, the Declaration of Independence was written, signed and proclaimed to the new nation by the Continental Congress.
But by December of the same year, the prospects for the American cause were looking bleak.
British forces, along with their mercenary Hessian reinforcements, had manhandled the Continental Army. Gen. George Washington’s troops were routed at Long Island, pushed out of Manhattan, forced to retreat across the Hudson to New Jersey, and then run out of Jersey across the Delaware River to Pennsylvania “exhausted, demoralized and uncertain of [their] future.”
Soon, the British believed, the American revolt would be extinguished.
“To compound Washington’s problems,” recounts the EyeWitnesstoHistory.com website, “the enlistments of the majority of the militias under his command were due to expire at the end of the month and the troops return to their homes.”
Yet, on Christmas night, Washington marshaled his ragtag soldiers and crossed the icy Delaware, marching his men nine miles to Trenton. In the wee hours of the morning on Dec. 26, the Continentals attacked, catching more than 1,000 Hessian soldiers by surprise and taking nearly all of them captive.
In strictly military terms, the victory was not terribly significant. But in terms of American morale, as well as the perception of important potential allies such as France, the win was an absolutely perfect Christmas gift to the new Republic.
Our Republic, dedicated to liberty and justice for all, continues to this day.
And today, you and I are left to defend it — just like the barefoot minutemen who walked through the snow to face the most powerful military force of their world.
Merry Christmas, America!