December 25 has seen decisive moments in the birth or rebirth of nations and the fall of another.
Washington Crosses the Delaware River
Immortalized by the Emanuel Leutze painting, on Christmas night General George Washington led his army across the Delaware River into the wee hours of the next day. Washington would lead a sneak attack on Trenton the next day that proved to be a decisive victory and fueled enlistments in the rebel army.
The Egg Nog Riot
Attempts to crack down on a holiday egg nog party among West Point cadets led to an outright riot and mutiny in which 20 cadets were court-martialed. Among those involved, but not convicted, were future Supreme Court Justice John Campbell and future Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Romanian President Ceaușescu Executed
Unable to quell demonstrations, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu fled Bucharest with his wife, but were eventually captured. They were tried and executed on Christmas Day.
Gorbachev Resigns in Final Act of USSR
The Soviet Union’s reign ended on Christmas with the televised resignation of President Mikhail S. Gorbachev as the eighth and final leader of a Communist superpower that had already gone out of existence.
Underwear Bomber Foiled
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan.