On December 24:
1754 George Crabbe, British poet and naturalist, was born (d. 1832).
1777 Kiritimati, (Christmas Island) was discovered by James Cook.
1814 The Treaty of Ghent was signed ending the War of 1812.
1822 Matthew Arnold, British poet, was born (d. 1888).
1865 Several U.S. Civil War Confederate veterans formed the Ku Klux Klan.
1893 Harry Warren, American composer and lyricist (Chattanooga Choo Choo – I Only Have Eyes for You), was born (d. 1981).
1905 Howard Hughes, American film producer and inventor, was born (d. 1976).
1914 World War I: The “Christmas truce” began.
1922 Ava Gardner, American actress, was born (d. 1990).
1923 George Patton IV, American general, was born (d. 2004).
1924 Albania became a republic.
1927 Mary Higgins Clark, American author, was born.
1941 World War II: Hong Kong fell to the Japanese Imperial Army.
1943 General Dwight D. Eisenhower became Supreme Allied Commander.
1948 Frank Oliver, New Zealand rugby player, was born.
1953 Tangiwai railway disaster - The worst railway disaster in New Zealand’s history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953 when the Wellington-Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River, just west of Tangiwai in the central North Island. The accident happened after a railway bridge was destroyed by a lahar.
1979 – The first European Ariane rocket was launched.
1997 – The Sid El-Antri massacre (or Sidi Lamri) in Algeria killed 50-100 people.
2000 – The Texas 7 held up a sports store in Irving, Texas, Police officer Aubrey Hawkins was murdered during the robbery.
2003 – Spanish police thwarted an attempt by ETA to detonate 50 kg of explosives at 3:55 p.m. inside Madrid’s Chamartín Station.
Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.