A Brief History
On December 25, AD 1, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, in what is now Israel. (It was Israel then, too.) Or so the story goes. Historians find some problems with the Biblical and common interpretation of the birth of Christ, including even the date, meaning the day as well as the year. The Ukrainian side of this author’s family celebrated Christmas on January 7 each year, which coincidentally is this author’s birthday! Yes, that makes this author the first person mentioned (besides Jesus) as being born on Christmas. Today we take a look at 10 famous people who were born on the auspicious day Christmas is celebrated. (So many famous singers, actors, athletes and the like were born on Christmas there are plenty for you to tell us some that we really should have included on our list. Our list is arbitrary and includes people we find fascinating. Obviously, there are so many more, especially going way back in history. We will address those “Christmas” babies born on January 6 and January 7 in another list.)
Note: In 1980 the author visited Israel and went to all the Biblical sites, including Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (tomb), including the exact spot/hole in the ground where the Cross was allegedly placed when Jesus was crucified. At the bottom of the tomb of Jesus was an old Priest with a long beard taking money from the people that visited the Holy Sepulchre. It felt kind of profane. Anyway, Merry Christmas whether you are Christian or not! (Happy Festivus for the restofus!)
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, 1971.
As the current (2019) PM of Canada, Trudeau represents the political group of Xmas babies on our list. He is the son of former Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau (PM 1968-1979, 1980-1984) and has served in the top job in Ottawa since 2015. He is famous for his good looks and is the second youngest Canadian PM ever. He is a graduate of McGill University and the University of British Columbia. He has also studied at the Université de Montréal. Sorry ladies, this leader of the Liberal Party is married (since 2005) and has 3 children. Mostly of French and Scottish ancestry, Trudeau does have a small amount of East Asian ancestry as well.
Dido, English singer-songwriter, 1971.
Born Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong in London, England, it is no wonder she goes by the abbreviated name, Dido! This lovely songstress can represent most of the many singers and other musicians born on Xmas and was ranked #98 of the top 200 artists of the 2000’s (first decade of the 21st Century) by Billboard. She has won numerous British and European awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for her song “If I Rise” which appeared in the 2010 film, 127 Hours. Probably her best known song is “White Flag,” a nominee for the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammy in 2004. The name, “Dido,” stems from the name of the mythical Queen of Carthage. Because of being born on Christmas, Dido celebrates her “birthday” on June 9th each year. Her ethnic heritage is Irish and French.
Rickey Henderson, Hall of Fame baseball player, 1958.
A major league legend, Henderson, aka “The Man of Steal,” is generally regarded as the greatest base runner and leadoff hitter in major league baseball history. He played from 1979 to 2003 at the major league level, amassing an incredible (record) 1406 stolen bases. He was also a fine hitter, posting a lifetime .279 batting average and he stroked 3055 hits, of which 297 were home runs. Henderson is also the all time career leader for leadoff home runs with 81, runs scored (2295), and unintentional walks. This left fielder was a 10 time All Star and knocked in 1115 runs, won a Gold Glove Award, was the American League MVP in 1990, won 3 Silver Slugger Awards, and led the American League in stolen bases 12 times. His career stolen base total of 1406 is nearly 500 more than the runner up, Lou Brock! Not surprisingly, his 130 stolen bases in 1982 are a Major League record for a single season (in the “modern” era since 1900).
Larry Csonka, Hall of Fame football player, 1946.
This bruising running back for the 2 time Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins ground out over 8000 yards rushing, most of which came up the middle and dragging tacklers with him. At 6 foot 3 ½ inches tall and a listed weight of 237 pounds (he was often more like 250 pounds), Csonka was a human tank on the field. He made the All Pro Team 5 times, was the Super Bowl MVP in 1974 (1973 season), and is an inductee to the College Football Hall of Fame as well as the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Larry, a Hungarian American, hails from Stow, Ohio, and has dabbled in acting, analysis and commentary of sporting events, and is a renowned sportsman that has hosted hunting and fishing shows. He maintains a farm in Lisbon, Ohio, but now makes his main residence in Wasilla, Alaska, where he can indulge his lust for the outdoors. His dedication to the youth of his hometown of Stow has earned him recognition as one of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s “Hometown Hall of Famers.” “Zonk’s” alma mater is Syracuse, home of such illustrious running backs as Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little. He actually played linebacker his first year, then switched to running back.
Jimmy Buffet, singer-songwriter, 1946.
The founder of the genre of “island escapism” music and the object of affection of millions of “Parrotheads,” Buffet (not to be confused with the all you can eat food bar!) made his signature hit, “Margaritaville” in 1977. In spite of “only” going to #8 on the pop charts (it was #1 on the Easy Listening list), the song has proven to have tremendous staying power and you can hear it over and over on the radio and other venues as it has become part of Americana. Buffet and his signature song were the impetus for the 2017 musical, Escape to Margaritaville. In 2016 “Margaritaville” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its “cultural and historic significance.” This gentle strummer was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and grew up in Mobile, Alabama, so the Gulf Coast is in his blood. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has a degree in History. (No wonder we like him!) No shock here, Buffet owns a home on the Caribbean island of St. Bart’s. Our favorite Jimmy Buffet song? “Cheeseburger in Paradise” (1978)! He has made numerous appearances on television and in movies. A pilot that has owned several airplanes, Buffet was once shot at by Jamaican police when he was flying, as they believed (mistakenly) he was a marijuana smuggler. Luckily, he was unhurt, and his plane had little damage.
Mike Mazurki, wrestler and actor, 1907.
Born in what was then part of the Austria-Hungary Empire in Galicia, in what is now the Ukraine, little “Mike” was christened Markijan Mazurkiewicz and would not have been considered a Christmas baby by his Ukrainian family, as they would celebrate the holiday on January 7th. At the age of 6 Mazurki emigrated to the United States with his family to a small town outside of Albany, New York. A big, sturdy lad, Mike played football and basketball at Manhattan College, where he graduated with a BA in 1930. Despite his gruff, thug “heavy” persona later played in movies and in the pro wrestling ring, Mazurki was highly intelligent and went on to graduate with a law degree from Fordham Law School. Ah, but Mike found the law a poor paymaster, and he turned to professional basketball and football to earn some money, finally realizing that pro wrestling would pay him better than 10 times what he made as a lawyer! Maaurki’s movie career started in 1941, mostly playing psychos, murderers, thugs, and other apish heavy type characters. His rough voice and slurred speech contributed to his tough guy persona, possibly a result of a throat injury in the wrestling ring. He also appeared in numerous television shows and even a Rod Stewart music video. Mazurki co-founded an association of professional wrestlers called the Cauliflower Alley Club, a tribute to his “cauliflower ear” he got from wrestling. His activism earned him a (posthumous) award from the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. He died in 1990 at the age of 82.
Robert Ripley, publisher, 1890.
Cartoonist and museum owner, LeRoy Robert Ripley was born in Santa Rosa, California, but made his name in New York City. He is the guy behind “Ripley’s Believe it or Not,” and we have fond memories of going to his Niagara Falls museum and reading his books as kids. A world traveler, Ripley looked for the bizarre and unusual everywhere he went, illustrating each example with his signature drawings. He started in San Francisco but moved his talents to New York in 1912. His many other pursuits included playing semi-pro baseball, becoming the New York handball champion, making movie short films, hosting a radio program, opening his first “Odditorium” in Chicago (1933), followed by other Odditoriums in San Diego, Cleveland, and San Francisco. He died suddenly of a heart attack in 1949 at the age of 58. Ripley also engaged in humanitarian work after World War II.
Louis Chevrolet, race car driver and car maker, 1878.
After Ford, the biggest name in American cars is Chevrolet, and the eponymous man behind the name, Louis Chevrolet, the man whose name is “As American as Apple Pie” was actually born in Switzerland as Louis-Joseph Chevrolet. His family moved to France, and then Louis went on to Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1900. A mechanic by trade, he was interested in the budding business of automobiles, and became a race car driver and then went to work for The Autocar Company in Philadelphia while continuing to drive race cars, including for Buick. While working for Buick he learned about designing cars, and in 1911 he founded the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in Detroit with William Durant as an investor. (Durant later became the founder of General Motors.) Louis left his own company in 1915 over disputes about car design with Durant, and Durant was able to leverage his Chevrolet stock into acquiring a controlling share of General Motors. The original Chevrolet company became part of General Motors, while Louis and the McLaughlin Car Company merged Louis’ Chevrolet Motor Company of Canada Ltd. into a new company called General Motors of Canada. (Confused yet? We are!) More convoluted creation of car companies followed and Chevrolet died of a heart attack in Detroit in 1941. His name lives on as an American icon.
Clara Barton, nurse and founder of American Red Cross, 1821.
Clarissa Harlowe Barton earned her nursing credentials as a battlefield nurse during the American Civil War, harsh duty indeed. She also worked as a patent clerk and as a teacher and is noted for her civil rights activism and her humanitarian pursuits. Born in Massachusetts, Clara became a teacher at only 17 years of age, as she had been a highly intelligent and apt pupil herself, though somewhat shy and a tomboy. Her teaching took her to diverse places such as Georgia and Canada, and when she was replaced as school principal by a man, she developed a keen sense of the discrimination against women in her time. Living and working in the Washington/Baltimore area for the Government, she was on hand for the Baltimore Riots, the first fighting of the Civil War. Lending aid as a nurse to the wounded, she began her nursing career. More than just a patient attendant, Barton was an organizer and gatherer of necessary medicine and medical equipment. By 1864 she was appointed “Lady in Charge” of the hospital operations of the (Union) Army of the James. Know by such nicknames as “The Angel of the Battlefield” and “Florence Nightingale of America,” Barton’s fame grew. After the Civil War she became aware of the vast number of men buried in unmarked graves, leading grieving families to question the whereabouts and status of their loved ones. She began a campaign to conduct an operation called “The Search for the Missing Men.” Clara parlayed her fame into other pursuits, such as meeting and teaming up with Susan B. Anthony on the subject of Women’s Rights and Women’s suffrage. She also traveled to Europe and assisted with taking care of wounded soldiers in European wars, as well as becoming acquainted with European medical organizations such as the International Red Cross. On her return to the United States in 1873 she began a campaign to create an American chapter of the Red Cross, ultimately becoming successful in 1881. The Red Cross under her leadership grew and took on new duties as well as battlefield care, such as taking care of refugees and disaster victims. She died in Maryland in 1812 at the age of 90 years.
Isaac Newton, scientist, 1642.
Possibly the greatest scientist of all time, Newton was a philosopher, writer, physicist, astronomer, mathematician, and even theologian. Born in Lincolnshire, England in 1642, his great work, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) of 1687 is considered the foundation of the science of mechanics. As a key figure in the Scientific Revolution, Newton probably has had more influence on the sciences than any other single person. He worked with lenses and prisms, astronomy and planetary motion, deduced the true shape of the Earth, calculated the speed of sound, studied fluids and gases, made mathematical advances in calculus, and conducted serious Bible studies. He personally studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he also worked as a Fellow and Professor. He served as a Master of the Royal Mint and as President of the Royal Society, as well as serving 2 terms as a member of Parliament. Not surprisingly, a guy as busy as Newton had no time for dalliances, and the great scientist never married. Nor did he have any known close relationships with a woman or even a man. His sexuality or lack thereof remains a subject of debate. Newton died in Middlesex, England, in 1726 at the age of 84. Some of his notable work was published after his death.
Question for students (and subscribers): Other than Jesus, who do you believe is the most famous Christmas baby? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Barton, Clara. A Quiet Will: The Life of Clara Barton. Independently published, 2016.
Dolnick, Edward. The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World. Harper Perennial, 2012.
Keller, Timothy. Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ. Penguin Books, 2018.
The featured image in this article, Adoration of the Shepherds by Dutch painter Matthias Stomer, 1632, is a faithful photographic reproduction by Paris Orlando of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: The author died in 1660, so this work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1924. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.