Today is Wednesday, Dec. 25, the 359th day of 2013. There are six days left in the year. This is Christmas Day.
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.