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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. (Baltimore Sun files)

Dec. 25, 1776: Gen. George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River for a surprise attack against Hessian forces at Trenton, New Jersey.

Dec. 25, 1926: Hirohito became emperor of Japan, succeeding his father, Emperor Yoshihito.

Dec. 26, 1799: Former President George Washington was eulogized by Col. Henry Lee as “first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Dec. 26, 1966: Kwanzaa was first celebrated.

Dec. 27, 1831: Naturalist Charles Darwin set out on a voyage to the Pacific aboard the HMS Beagle. (Darwin's discoveries during the trip helped to form the basis of his theories on natural selection and evolution.)

Dec. 27, 1932: Radio City Music Hall opened in New York.

Dec. 28, 1612: Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei observed the planet Neptune, but mistook it for a star. (Neptune wasn't officially discovered until 1846 by Johann Gottfried Galle.)

Dec. 28, 1832: John C. Calhoun became the first vice president of the United States to resign, stepping down because of differences with President Andrew Jackson.

Dec. 28, 1917: The New York Evening Mail published “A Neglected Anniversary,” a facetious essay by H.L. Mencken supposedly recounting the history of bathtubs in America.

Dec. 28, 1945: Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance.

Dec. 29, 1812: During the War of 1812, the American frigate USS Constitution engaged and severely damaged the British frigate HMS Java off Brazil.

Dec. 29, 1890: The Wounded Knee massacre took place in South Dakota as an estimated 300 Sioux Indians were killed by U.S. troops sent to disarm them.

Dec. 29, 1940: During World War II, Germany dropped incendiary bombs on London, setting off what came to be known as “The Second Great Fire of London.”

Dec. 30, 1853: The United States and Mexico signed a treaty under which the U.S. agreed to buy some 45,000 square miles of land from Mexico for $10 million in a deal known as the Gadsden Purchase.

Dec. 30, 1922: Vladimir I. Lenin proclaimed the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which lasted nearly seven decades before dissolving in Dec. 1991.

Dec. 30, 1936: The United Auto Workers union staged its first “sit-down” strike at the General Motors Fisher Body Plant No. 1 in Flint, Michigan. (The strike lasted until Feb. 11, 1937.)

Dec. 31, 1879: Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

Dec. 31, 1904: New York's Times Square saw its first New Year's Eve celebration, with an estimated 200,000 people in attendance.

Compiled by Lori Sears and Paul McCardell.

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