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Today in history: December 25

Celebrity birthdays, highlights in history, plus more facts about this day
/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Sunday, Dec. 25, the 359th day of 2005. There are six days left in the year. This is Christmas Day. The Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, begins at sunset.

Today’s Highlight in History:
On Dec. 25, 1818, “Silent Night” was performed for the first time, at the Church of St. Nikolaus in Oberndorff, Austria.

On this date:
In A.D. 336, the first recorded celebration of Christmas on Dec. 25 took place in Rome.

In 1776, Gen. George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River for a surprise attack against Hessian forces at Trenton, N.J.

In 1926, Hirohito became emperor of Japan, succeeding his father, Emperor Yoshihito. (Hirohito was formally enthroned almost two years later.)

In 1931, New York’s Metropolitan Opera broadcast an entire opera over radio for the first time: “Hansel and Gretel” by Engelbert Humperdinck.

In 1941, during World War II, Japan announced the surrender of the British-Canadian garrison at Hong Kong.

In 1946, comedian W.C. Fields died in Pasadena, Calif., at age 66.

In 1977, comedian Sir Charles Chaplin died in Switzerland at age 88.

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 already had gone out of existence.

In 2003, 16 people were killed by mudslides that swept over campgrounds in California’s San Bernardino Valley.

Ten years ago: An ailing Pope John Paul II cut short his traditional Christmas greetings, telling crowds he was fighting to regain his health. Singer Dean Martin died at his Beverly Hills home at age 78.

Five years ago: A fire in central China killed 309 people inside an unlicensed disco.

One year ago: President Bush urged Americans to help the neediest among them by volunteering to care for the sick, the elderly and the poor in a Christmas Day call for compassion.

Today’s Birthdays: Singer Tony Martin is 92. Actor Dick Miller is 77. Actress Hanna Schygulla is 62. Rhythm-and-blues singer John Edwards (The Spinners) is 61. Actor Gary Sandy is 60. Singer Jimmy Buffett is 59. Football Hall-of-Famer Larry Csonka is 59. Country singer Barbara Mandrell is 57. Actress Sissy Spacek is 56. Actress CCH Pounder is 53. Singer Annie Lennox is 51. Reggae singer-musician Robin Campbell (UB40) is 51. Country singer Steve Wariner is 51. Singer Shane MacGowan (The Popes) is 48. Actress Klea Scott is 37. Rock musician Noel Hogan (The Cranberries) is 34. Singer Dido is 34. Rock singer Mac Powell (Third Day) is 33. Country singer Alecia Elliott is 23.

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).