Today is Monday, Dec. 24, the 358th day of 2001 with seven to follow.
This is Christmas Eve.
The moon is waxing, moving toward its full phase.
The morning star is Jupiter.
The evening stars are Mars and Saturn.
Those born on this date are under the sign of Capricorn. They include English King John I in 1167; American diplomat Silas Deane in 1737; physician and chemist Benjamin Rush in 1745; frontiersman Christopher "Kit" Carson in 1809; English physicist and inventor James Prescott Joule in 1818; film director Michael Curtiz ("Captain Blood," "Casablanca") in 1888; industrialist Howard Hughes in 1905; actress Ava Gardner in 1922; author/director Nicholas Meyer in 1945 (age 56); actor Diedrich Bader ("The Drew Carey Show") in 1966 (age 35); and pop singer Ricky Martin in 1971 (age 30).
On this date in history:
In 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed by representatives of the United States and Britain, ending the War of 1812.
In 1851, the Library of Congress and part of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., were destroyed by fire.
In 1871, Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Aida" premiered in Cairo. It had been commissioned to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal.
In 1942, German rocket engineers launched the first surface-to-surface guided missile.
Also in 1942, Adm. Jean Louis Darlan, the French administrator of North Africa, was assassinated as a sympathizer of the French Vichy regime.
In 1983, one of the nation's severest early season cold waves in history claimed nearly 300 lives.
In 1989, Manuel Noriega, the object of U.S. invasion forces, took refuge at the Vatican Embassy in Panama City and asked for political asylum.
In 1990, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein reportedly threatened to attack Tel Aviv, Israel, if the allies tried to retake Kuwait.
Also in 1990, the bells of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow rang to celebrate Christmas for the first time since the death of Lenin.
In 1992, President Bush issued Christmas Eve pardons to former Defense Secretary Weinberger and five others snared in the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra scandal.
In 1994, Islamic militants hijacked an Air France Airbus. The hijacking ended two days later when the plane was stormed by French paramilitary commandos in Marseille, who killed the four militants.
In 1996, Christmas was celebrated for a second year in Bethlehem, under Palestinian rule.
In 1997, a French court convicted the international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal of the 1975 murders of three men in Paris and sentenced him to life in prison.
A thought for the day: Eugene Field said,
"Most all the time, the whole year round, there ain't no flies on me,
"But jest 'fore Christmas I'm as good as I kin be!"