Today in History: December 25

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Merry Christmas!Christmas is the festival celebrating the birth of Christ and is observed in most countries on December 25. Christmas is sometimes called Yule (from the Anglo-Saxon) or Noel (from the French).

Christian churches throughout the world hold special services on Christmas Day to give thanks for the birth of Christ.nnIn addition to religious observances, Christmas is a time of merrymaking and feasting.

North American customs are a combination of those of the various European countries from which the original settlers came. On Christmas Eve children hang stockings for Santa Claus to fill with gifts.

The Christmas tree, usually an evergreen, was first used in Germany. Topped with a star or spire and decorated with colored lights and shiny ornaments, the tree plays an important part in the celebration.nnMistletoe was sacred to the Druids, priests of ancient Britain and Gaul.

The Norse used holly and the Yule log to keep away evil spirits. Gifts were exchanged during the Roman celebration of the Saturnalia, a feast to the god Saturn. Gift-giving came to symbolize the gifts brought to the Christ Child by the Magi.nnThe most popular Christmas legend however, is that of Santa Claus, whose name came from Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children.

Many of the qualities that Santa Claus is known for came from Clement C. Moore’s poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas.”

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In Milan, Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan, forces the emperor Theodosius to perform public penance for his massacre.

The pope crowns Charlemagne emperor in Rome.

William I is crowned king of England.

The governor of New Plymouth prevents newcomers from playing cards.

The General Court of Boston levies a five shilling fine on anyone caught “observing any such day as Christmas.”

Patriot General George Washington crosses the Delaware River with 5,400 troops during the American Revolution. Washington hoped to surprise a Hessian force celebrating Christmas at their winter quarters in Trenton, New Jersey.

Stonewall Jackson spends Christmas with his wife; their last together.

John Hunt Morgan and his raiders clash with Union forces near Bear Wallow, Kentucky.

President and Mrs. Lincoln visit hospitals in the Washington D.C. area on this Christmas Day.

Italy lands troops in Albania to protect its interests during a revolt there.

German and British troops on the Western Front declare an unofficial truce to celebrate Christmas during World War I.

A revolt erupts in Berlin.

U.S. troops in Nicaragua disarm insurgents in support of the Diaz regime.

The Mexican congress opens land to foreign investors, reversing the 1917 ban enacted to preserve the domestic economy.

Finnish troops enter Soviet territory.

Free French troops occupy the French Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon off the Canadian coast.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill goes to Athens to seek an end to the Greek civil war.

Chiang Kai-shek offers a new Chinese constitution in Nanking pledging universal suffrage.

Scottish nationalists steal the Stone of Scone from the British coronation throne in Westminster Abbey. The 485 pound stone was recovered in April 1951.

The Bay of Pigs captives, upon their return to the United States, vow to return to Cuba and topple Fidel Castro.

Entertainer Chris Noel gives her first performance for the USO at two hospitals in California; became a star on Armed Forces Radio and Television, entertaining troops in Vietnam; in 1984 Veterans Network honored her with a Distinguished Vietnam Veteran award.

U.S. astronauts onboard the Skylab space station take a seven-hour walk in space and photograph the comet Kohoutek.

Over 100 Muslims, returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca, die when their boat sinks.

Egypt begins major restoration of the Sphinx.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s first and last executive president, resigns. The Soviet Union no longer exsists.

James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul”, dies at age 73.

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