Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 25, 1818, "Silent Night (Stille Nacht)" 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 known commemoration 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, New Jersey.
In 1915, the Irving Berlin musical revue "Stop! Look! Listen!" (featuring the song "I Love a Piano") opened on Broadway, beginning a run of 105 performances.
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 1940, the Rodgers & Hart musical "Pal Joey" opened on Broadway, beginning a run of 374 performances.
In 1961, Pope John XXIII formally announced the upcoming convocation of the Second Vatican Council, which opened in Oct. 1962.
In 1973, "The Sting," starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as a pair of 1930s grifters, was released by Universal Pictures.
In 1989, ousted Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were executed following a popular uprising. Former baseball manager Billy Martin, 61, died in a traffic accident near Binghamton, New York.
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 1995, singer Dean Martin died at his Beverly Hills home at age 78.
Ten years ago: Pope Benedict XVI marked his first Christmas as pontiff, calling for concrete actions to back up "signs of hope" in the Middle East and urging peace in Darfur, Sudan and the Korean peninsula. Opera singer Birgit Nilsson died in her native Sweden at age 87.
Five years ago: The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, crisscrossed the country, making a Christmas visit to coalition troops at some of the main battle fronts in a show of appreciation and support in the tenth year of the war against the Taliban. A female suicide bomber attacked an aid center in Pakistan, killing at least 45 people. The West Bank town of Bethlehem bustled with its biggest crowd of Christian pilgrims in years. Former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez died in Miami. Olympics documentary filmmaker Bud Greenspan, 84, died in New York.
One year ago: The black comedy "The Interview" opened in 331 locations in the U.S., culminating in the truly unprecedented move by a major studio to release a film in theaters and on digital platforms simultaneously.
Today's Birthdays: Actor Dick Miller is 87. Author Anne Roiphe is 80. Actress Hanna Schygulla is 72. Rhythm-and-blues singer John Edwards (The Spinners) is 71. Actor Gary Sandy is 70. Singer Jimmy Buffett is 69. Pro and College Football Hall-of-Famer Larry Csonka is 69. Country singer Barbara Mandrell is 67. Actress Sissy Spacek is 66. Former White House adviser Karl Rove is 65. Actress CCH Pounder is 63. Singer Annie Lennox is 61. Reggae singer-musician Robin Campbell (UB40) is 61. Country singer Steve Wariner is 61. Singer Shane MacGowan (The Pogues, The Popes) is 58. Baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is 57. The former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, is 57. Actress Klea Scott is 47. Rock musician Noel Hogan (The Cranberries) is 44. Singer Dido is 44. Rock singer Mac Powell (Third Day) is 43. Rhythm-and-blues singer Ryan Shaw is 35. Country singer Alecia Elliott is 33. Pop singers Jess and Lisa Origliasso (The Veronicas) are 31.
Thought for Today: "One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly." — Andy Rooney, CBS News commentator (1919-2011).