Questionable History: Christmas scandals of the past


Christmas is usually seen as a time of peace and goodwill to all men and women, but that’s not always the case. Here we take a look at several instances where Christmas has created something of a scandal.

Johnson’s Partygate 2020

The British prime minister has been in the doghouse lately for all sorts of reasons. In December 2020 several seasonal get-togethers were held at Number 10, or nearby, when staff enjoyed wine and cheese or had to endure boring lectures by their superiors. Views differ about the specific purpose according to whether you currently want Johnson to lose his job or not. The problem seems to be that the rest of the United Kingdom’s citizens were in some sort of health lockdown whilst senior Whitehall people were making whoopee. According to Mr Johnson, it’s all a complete misunderstanding created by opponents who can’t (or won’t) understand that his staff are never off formal duty. You can’t mask this stuff.

Stonehouse turns up again 1974

British politician John Stonehouse had done the disappearing act, Reggie Perrin style, after his clothes were found mysteriously piled up on a beach. But on Christmas day 1974 the Australian police found him and the fellow was sent back to his home country in disgrace. At the time the Aussie police said they were very disappointed they hadn’t found Lord Lucan as he was much more famous. It turned out that John had faked his own death to avoid a debt-ridden future as he was unable to pay back the cash. He spent time as a guest of Her Majesty’s accommodation. He died in 1988 amid a new controversy that he had been a secret agent of the Czech military intelligence all along. Strangely, his real death was caused by a heart attack whilst making a documentary about people who go missing.

Fun in the bushes 1958

On Christmas Eve, the British MP for East Harrow, Ian Harvey, was caught in the bushes with a Coldstream guardsman. Ian made it worse by trying to escape during the walk to the police station for formal charging. In court, the charge of gross indecency was dropped and the duo were convicted of loitering with a fine of five pounds each. To be fair, Harvey paid the other guy’s fine as well which was a gesture of sorts. The 1950s were a time of anti-gay hysteria in Britain and the politician lost his job and his heterosexual marriage. More positively, he joined the gay civil rights movement which resulted in homosexuality being partly decriminalized nine years later. History doesn’t record what happened to the guardsman.

Trump promises Merry Christmas

Donald Trump denounces Starbucks at Christmas

At Christmas 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump made a speech in Wisconsin denouncing Starbucks and even suggesting a boycott. Trump said he was angry that the company had decided to abandon using its Christmas-themed cups when you ordered a coffee. He then went on to say that Christmas haters should be penalized, so maybe lovers of the Christian tradition shouldn’t ever visit a Starbucks venue ever again. Trump was hinting that Puritans in America had always been against people enjoying themselves ever since they had landed in the 1620s, adding that if he were elected president everyone would have a really good time. Amen to that.

Female pope discovered

Did Pope Joan deliver a Christmas baby?

It’s likely a myth, but some chroniclers reported that a woman actually became pope for a few years in the ninth century before being exposed on Christmas Day when she gave birth to a baby during a religious procession. It’s not clear whether Joan died naturally in the process or was murdered by the shocked Roman witnesses. Thereafter, all newly elected popes had to undergo a brief medical examination to make sure all was in order down below. Most modern historians believe there was a real medieval peasant named Joan, but think it unlikely that a peasant actually rose so strongly in the Church hierarchy. Still, you never can tell.