updated 12/24/2004 12:02:53 AM ET 2004-12-24T05:02:53

Today is Friday, Dec. 24, the 359th day of 2004. There are seven days left in the year. This is Christmas Eve.

Today’s highlight in history:
On Dec. 24, 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts, orbiting the moon, read passages from the Old Testament Book of Genesis during a Christmas Eve television broadcast.

On this date:
In 1524, Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama — who had discovered a sea route around Africa to India — died in Cochin, India.

In 1814, the War of 1812 officially ended as the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium.

In 1851, fire devastated the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., destroying about 35,000 volumes.

In 1865, several veterans of the Confederate Army formed a private social club in Pulaski, Tenn., called the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1871, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Aida” had its world premiere in Cairo, Egypt, to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal.

In 1920, Enrico Caruso gave his last public performance, singing in Jacques Halevy’s “La Juive” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

In 1943, President Roosevelt appointed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower supreme commander of Allied forces as part of Operation “Overlord.”

In 1951, Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” the first opera written specifically for television, was first broadcast by NBC TV.

In 1980, Americans remembered the U.S. hostages in Iran by burning candles or shining lights for 417 seconds — one second for each day of captivity.

In 2002, Laci Peterson was reported missing from her Modesto, Calif., home, by her husband, Scott, who was later convicted of murdering her and their unborn son.

Ten years ago: Armed Islamic fundamentalists hijacked an Air France Airbus A-300 carrying 227 passengers at the Algiers airport; three passengers were killed during the siege before the hijackers were killed by French commandos in Marseille two days later. British playwright John Osborne (“Look Back in Anger”) died at age 65.

Five years ago: Five hijackers seized an Indian Airlines jet with 189 people aboard, forcing the aircraft on a journey across South Asia and into the Middle East. (The eight-day ordeal resulted in the death of one passenger and India’s release of three jailed pro-Kashmir militants in exchange for the rest of the hostages.)

One year ago: A roadside bomb exploded north of Baghdad, killing three U.S. soldiers in the deadliest attack on Americans to that time following Saddam Hussein’s capture. Air France canceled several flights to the United States after U.S. officials passed on what were termed “credible” security threats.

Today’s birthdays: Songwriter-bandleader Dave Bartholomew is 84. Federal health administrator Anthony S. Fauci is 64. Recording company executive Mike Curb is 60. Rock singer-musician Lemmy (Motorhead) is 59. Actor Grand L. Bush is 49. Actor Clarence Gilyard is 49. Actress Stephanie Hodge is 48. Rock musician Ian Burden (The Human League) is 47. Designer Kate Spade is 42. Rock singer Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs) is 41. Actor Mark Valley is 40. Actor Diedrich Bader (“The Drew Carey Show”) is 38. Singer Ricky Martin is 33. “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest is 30.

Quote of the day:  "So if a Christian is touched only once a year, the touching is still worth it, and maybe on some given Christmas, some quiet morning, the touch will take." — Harry Reasoner, American broadcast journalist (1923-1991).

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