Media, Christmas have long connections
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LARRY BURRIS

What is probably the most famous connection between Christmas and the media is Frank Church's "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" editorial in the Sept. 21, 1897, issue of the "New York Sun."  But there are a number of other, little-known, historical associations that link the Christmas season with prominent media events.

Take, for example, music.  All the way back on Christmas Eve, 1818, a mouse put the organ at Saint Nicholas Church in Oberdorf, Germany, out of commission.  Franz Gruber saved the day, or rather night, however, when he wrote a carol for voice and guitar for midnight mass, "Stille Nacht."  We know the song as "Silent Night."

On Dec. 23, 1823, an anonymous writer submitted a poem to the Troy, New York, "Sentinel."  The poem was titled "A Visit from Saint Nicholas," and the writer was eventually identified as a professor at the New York General Theological Seminary, Clement Clarke Moore.  You may know the poem as "The Night Before Christmas."

The first known broadcast of the human voice took place on Christmas Eve, 1906.  That evening, Canadian-born scientist Reginald Fessenden read from the book of Luke in the Bible, then sang "O Holy Night" as he played the violin.  Imagine the shock when wireless operators, used to hearing the dots and dashes of Morse code heard a human voice coming over their headsets!

Did you know that the first message transmitted from space was a Dec. 19, 1958, Christmas message taped by President Eisenhower?  The message had been recorded and placed in a satellite earlier in the year.

Another Christmas, media and space achievement occurred 10 years later, in 1968.  Apollo 8 was launched on Dec. 21 of that year, and the crew made a Christmas Eve television broadcast, during which they read the first 10 verses from the book of Genesis.  At the time, the broadcast was the most watched television program ever.

Today we have hundreds, if not thousands of television programs, movies, and internet sites devoted to Christmas, with everything cartoons to serious scientific, and not so serious pseudo-scientific, examinations.  But all of this can be traced back to just a few people and a few feeble watts floating through the heavens.

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