Today is Sunday, Dec. 25, the 359th day of 2011. There are six days left in the year. This is Christmas Day.
Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 25, 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.
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 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.
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 1936, American newspaperman Arthur Brisbane, 72, died in New York.
In 1941, during World War II, Japan announced the surrender of the British-Canadian garrison at Hong Kong.
In 1961, Pope John XXIII formally announced the upcoming convocation of the Second Vatican Council, which opened in Oct. 1962.
In 1989, ousted Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu (chow-SHES'-koo) and his wife, Elena, were executed following a popular uprising.
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: From Mazar-e-Sharif to Kandahar in Afghanistan and the USS 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 II turned his thoughts at Christmas to children _ Palestinian, Israeli, American, Afghan and African _ declaring that humanity's hope depended on helping them.
Five years ago: James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul," died in Atlanta at age 73. Pope Benedict XVI used his Christmas Day address to call for a peaceful resolution of conflicts worldwide and appealed for greater caring of the poor, the exploited and all who suffer.
One year 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.
Today's Birthdays: Singer Tony Martin is 98. Actor Dick Miller is 83. Author Anne Roiphe is 76. Actress Hanna Schygulla (SHEE'-goo-lah) is 68. Rhythm-and-blues singer John Edwards (The Spinners) is 67. Actor Gary Sandy is 66. Singer Jimmy Buffett is 65. Pro and College Football Hall-of-Famer Larry Csonka is 65. Country singer Barbara Mandrell is 63. Actress Sissy Spacek is 62. Former White House adviser Karl Rove is 61. Actress CCH Pounder is 59. Singer Annie Lennox is 57. Reggae singer-musician Robin Campbell (UB40) is 57. Country singer Steve Wariner is 57. Singer Shane MacGowan (The Pogues, The Popes) is 54. Baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson is 53. The former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, is 53. Actress Klea Scott is 43. Rock musician Noel Hogan (The Cranberries) is 40. Singer Dido is 40. Rock singer Mac Powell (Third Day) is 39. Rhythm-and-blues singer Ryan Shaw is 31. Country singer Alecia Elliott is 29. Pop singers Lisa and Jess Origliasso (The Veronicas) are 27.
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).
(Above Advance for Use Sunday, Dec. 25)
Copyright 2011, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.