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Today in History - Dec. 25

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

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 25, 1818, “Silent Night,” written by Franz Gruber and Father Joseph Mohr, was performed for the first time, 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, General 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 TV to announce his resignation as the eighth and final leader of a communist superpower that had already gone out of existence.

Ten years ago: Peruvians held candles high and prayed outside the Japanese ambassador’s residence, where leftist rebels freed one hostage for health reasons, but continued to hold more than 100 others.

Five years ago: From Mazar-e-Sharif to Kandahar in Afghanistan and the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, American forces celebrated Christmas with carols, touch football and turkey dinners. In his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” message, Pope John Paul the Second turned his thoughts at Christmas to children — Palestinian, Israeli, American, Afghan and African — declaring that humanity’s hope depends on helping them.

One year ago: Pope Benedict the 16th marked his first Christmas as pope, calling for concrete actions to back up “signs of hope” in the Middle East and urging peace in Darfur, Sudan and the Korean peninsula.

Today’s Birthdays: Singer Tony Martin is 93. Actor Dick Miller is 78. Actress Hanna Schygulla is 63. Rhythm-and-blues singer John Edwards (The Spinners) is 62. Actor Gary Sandy is 61. Singer Jimmy Buffett is 60. Football Hall-of-Famer Larry Csonka is 60. Country singer Barbara Mandrell is 58. Actress Sissy Spacek is 57. Actress CCH Pounder is 54. Singer Annie Lennox is 52. Reggae singer-musician Robin Campbell (UB40) is 52. Country singer Steve Wariner is 52. Singer Shane MacGowan (The Popes) is 49. Actress Klea Scott is 38. Rock musician Noel Hogan (The Cranberries) is 35. Singer Dido is 35. Rock singer Mac Powell (Third Day) is 34. Country singer Alecia Elliott is 24.

Thought for Today: “Were I a philosopher, I should write a philosophy of toys, showing that nothing else in life need to be taken seriously, and that Christmas Day in the company of children is one of the few occasions on which men become entirely alive.” — Robert Lynd, British essayist (1879-1949).