Category Archives: This day in History

Festivus (1997)

The holiday of Festivus, celebrated on December 23, was popularized by an episode of the 1990s TV show Seinfeld. Unfulfilled by the year-end holidays, character Frank Costanza invents Festivus “for the rest of us.” The centerpiece of Festivus is a plain, unadorned aluminum pole placed in a bucket of cement. One by one, attendees grab the pole and air their grievances, detailing how other people have disappointed them in the past year. What happens after this gripe session? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Environmental Activist Chico Mendes Is Assassinated (1988)

Since 1985, swaths of the Amazon region have been cleared for cattle ranching and farming on an unprecedented scale. Mendes, a Brazilian environmental activist and unionist, fought to stop the deforestation. He managed to keep local rancher Darly Alves da Silva from clearing an area designated as a reserve, even facilitating a warrant for da Silva’s arrest, but it was never acted upon, and da Silva was implicated in Mendes’s 1988 assassination. Where was Mendes killed? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Introduction of the Modern Crossword Puzzle (1913)

Though a type of crossword puzzle has been traced back to the ancient Egyptians, 20th-century British-American journalist Arthur Wynne is generally credited with the invention of the modern form of the crossword. Within a decade, such puzzles were being published in most leading US newspapers. The word game was further popularized when Simon & Schuster published a crossword puzzle book in 1924. The craze soon spread to England and beyond. What name did Wynne initially give his word game? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Tragedy at Sea: MV Doña Paz Passenger Ferry Sinks (1987)

The passenger ferry MV Doña Paz was traveling along the Tablas Strait in the Philippines when it collided with the MT Vector, an oil tanker carrying 8,800 barrels of petroleum products. The cargo ignited, causing a fire that spread onto the Doña Paz. Survivors had to jump ship, and both vessels quickly sank in shark-infested waters. The accident claimed over 4,000 lives, as the Doña Paz was grossly overcrowded. How many passengers was it supposed to hold? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Operation Vijay: India Annexes Daman and Diu (1961)

Spanning less than 50 square miles (130 sq km) on the coast of India, Daman and Diu became Portuguese colonies in the 16th century, along with the port of Goa. After India gained independence from the UK in 1947, its government began working toward the return of all Indian colonies held by Portugal. Portugal, however, violently suppressed peaceful Indian activists opposed to its continued rule. After Indian forces invaded, how many days did it take for them to annex Daman and Diu? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Discovery of Piltdown Man Announced (1912)

In the early 20th-century, amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson announced that a fossilized skull belonging to a previously unknown species of prehistoric man had been found in Piltdown, England. It took 40 years to definitively determine that the skull was not that of a primitive hominid but rather a fake constructed from a human cranium and the jawbone of an ape. The perpetrator of the hoax has never been identified, though many have fallen under suspicion, including what famous author? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

US Brigadier General James Dozier Kidnapped by Italian Terrorists (1981)

In 1981, US Brigadier General James Dozier was kidnapped from his apartment in Italy by men posing as plumbers. The kidnappers were members of the Red Brigades, an extreme left-wing terrorist organization that sought to undermine the Italian state and pave the way for Marxist upheaval. Dozier, who was serving as deputy chief of staff at NATO’s Southern European land forces headquarters in Verona, was the first American general ever abducted by a terrorist group. How long was he held captive? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Last Recorded Eruption of Mount Fuji Begins (1707)

Majestic Mount Fuji, located about 60 mi (100 km) from Tokyo, is the tallest mountain in Japan. The beauty of the snowcapped symmetrical cone, ringed by lakes and virgin forests, has inspired Japanese poets and painters throughout the centuries. Though the volcano is classified as active, its last major eruption began on December 16, 1707, and ended in early 1708. As a sacred mountain, Mount Fuji is a traditional pilgrimage site, but the Aokigahara forest at its base is a popular site for what? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Billionaire's Grandson Found Alive—But Maimed—after Kidnapping (1973)

In 1973, 16-year-old John Paul Getty III—grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty—was kidnapped in Rome. His family initially dismissed a $17-million ransom demand as a joke by the rebellious teen, but a second note convinced his father to ask J. Paul to pay it. He refused. The frustrated kidnappers then cut off John’s ear and sent it along with a note saying he would “arrive in little pieces” if their demands were not met. At this, the elder Getty relented, paying over $2 million on what condition? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

USSR Expelled from the League of Nations (1939)

The League of Nations was an international confederation of countries created after World War I and disbanded following World War II when many of its functions were transferred to the United Nations. The League collapsed when faced with threats to international peace from all sides in the 1930s, including the Spanish civil war, Japan’s resumption of war against China, and the appeasement of Adolf Hitler at Munich. Its last important act was to expel the Soviet Union in 1939 for doing what? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary