1843: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens first went on sale.
1941: Adolf Hitler became Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the German Army.
1972: The last manned lunar flight, Apollo 17, crewed by Eugene Cernan, Ron Evans and Harrison Schmitt, returned to Earth.
1998: The U.S. House of Representatives forwarded articles I and III of impeachment against President Bill Clinton to the Senate.
1892: Alexander Brown and George Stillman of Syracuse, New York, received the first patent on an inflatable automobile tire.
1957: American rock and roll star Elvis Presley received notice that he would be drafted into the U.S. Army.
1940: Born this day, Ray Hildebrand, U.S. singer-songwriter (Paul & Paula), and Frank Zappa, U.S. singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer and composer (The Mothers of Invention, died 1993).
1937: The Lincoln Tunnel opened to traffic in New York City.
1944: During the Battle of the Bulge, German troops demanded the surrender of U.S. troops at Bastogne, Belgium, prompting the famous one word reply by General Anthony McAuliffe: “Nuts!”
1989: Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate re-opened after nearly 30 years, effectively ending the division of East and West Germany.
2012: The repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, the 17-year-old policy banning homosexuals serving openly in the U.S. military, was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
1823: A Visit from St. Nicholas, also known as The Night Before Christmas, was published anonymously in the Troy, New York, Sentinel.
1938: The first modern coelacanth was discovered in South Africa. Coelacanths were thought to have been extinct for 100 million years. The coelacanth is considered a “living fossil” due to its apparent lack of significant evolution over millions of years. The coelacanth is thought to have evolved into roughly its current form approximately 400 million years ago.
1948: Seven Japanese convicted of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East were executed at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo.
1955: NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) tracked Santa Claus for the first time in what has become an annual Christmas Eve tradition.
1968: The crew of Apollo 8 entered into orbit around the Moon, becoming the first humans to do so. They performed 10 lunar orbits and broadcast live TV pictures that became the famous Christmas Eve Broadcast, one of the most watched programs in history.
1643: Christmas Island was found and named by Captain William Mynors of the East India Company vessel, the Royal Mary.