Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 25, 1818, "Silent Night (Stille Nacht)," written by Franz Gruber and Father Joseph Mohr, was publicly performed for the first time during the Christmas Midnight Mass at the Church of St. Nikolaus in Oberndorf, Austria.
On this date:
In A.D. 336, the first recorded celebration of Christmas on Dec. 25 took place in Rome.
In 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned king of England.
In 1776, Gen. George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River for a surprise attack against Hessian forces at Trenton, N.J.
In 1868, President Andrew Johnson granted an unconditional pardon to all persons involved in the Southern rebellion that resulted in the Civil War.
In 1926, Hirohito became emperor of Japan, succeeding his father, Emperor Yoshihito.
In 1931, New York's Metropolitan Opera broadcast an entire live opera over radio for the first time: "Hansel and Gretel" by Engelbert Humperdinck.
In 1937, the NBC Symphony Orchestra, led for the first time by conductor Arturo Toscanini, performed a Christmas concert featuring works by Vivaldi, Mozart and Brahms.
In 1941, during World War II, Japan announced the surrender of the British-Canadian garrison at Hong Kong.
In 1973, "The Sting," starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as a pair of 1930s grifters, was released.
In 1989, ousted Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed following a popular uprising.
In 1991, Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev went on television to announce his resignation as the eighth and final leader of a communist superpower that had already gone out of existence.
In 2009, passengers aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 foiled an attempt to blow up the plane as it was landing in Detroit by seizing a man who tried to set off explosives in his underwear.
Ten years ago: Sixteen people were killed by mudslides that swept over campgrounds in California's San Bernardino Valley. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf survived a second assassination bid in 11 days, but 17 other people were killed. A plane crashed after taking off from Benin, killing 141 of the 163 people aboard. Britain's Mars lander, the Beagle 2, separated from Europe's Mars Express, which was orbiting the red planet, but the craft was lost.
Five years ago: Pope Benedict XVI urged a world confronting a financial crisis, conflict, and increasing poverty not to lose hope at Christmas, but to join in "authentic solidarity" to prevent global ruin. President-elect Barack Obama spent a private Christmas with family and close friends in Hawaii. Singer, dancer and actress Eartha Kitt died in Weston, Conn. at age 81. Actress Ann Savage died in Los Angeles at age 87.
One year ago: In his Christmas message to the world, Pope Benedict XVI called for an end to the slaughter in Syria and for more meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, while encouraging more religious freedom under China's new leaders. Chicago mobster Frank Calabrese Sr., 75, died at a federal prison in North Carolina.
Today's Birthdays: Actor Dick Miller is 85. Author Anne Roiphe is 78. Actress Hanna Schygulla (SHEE'-goo-lah) is 70. Rhythm-and-blues singer John Edwards (The Spinners) is 69. Actor Gary Sandy is 68. Singer Jimmy Buffett is 67. Pro and College Football Hall-of-Famer Larry Csonka is 67. Country singer Barbara Mandrell is 65. Actress Sissy Spacek is 64. Former White House adviser Karl Rove is 63. Actress CCH Pounder is 61. Singer Annie Lennox is 59. Reggae singer-musician Robin Campbell (UB40) is 59. Country singer Steve Wariner is 59. Singer Shane MacGowan (The Pogues, The Popes) is 56. Baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is 55. The former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, is 55. Actress Klea Scott is 45. Rock musician Noel Hogan (The Cranberries) is 42. Singer Dido is 42. Rock singer Mac Powell (Third Day) is 41. Rhythm-and-blues singer Ryan Shaw is 33. Country singer Alecia Elliott is 31. Pop singers Lisa and Jess Origliasso (The Veronicas) are 29.
Thought for Today: "It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you... yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand." — Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997).