This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
December 22 is the 356th day of the year (357th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are nine days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1808, Ludwig von Beethoven’s 5th Symphony makes its world premier in Vienna.
Also premiering that day at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna were Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58, and the Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68-the “Pastoral Symphony.” But it was the Fifth Symphony that, despite its shaky premiere, would eventually be recognized as Beethoven’s greatest achievement to that point in his career. Writing in 1810, the critic E.T.A. Hoffman praised Beethoven for having outstripped the great Haydn and Mozart with a piece that “opens the realm of the colossal and immeasurable to us…evokes terror, fright, horror, and pain, and awakens that endless longing that is the essence of Romanticism.”
That assessment would stand the test of time, and the Fifth Symphony would quickly become a centerpiece of the classical repertoire for orchestras around the world. But beyond its revolutionary qualities as a serious composition, the Fifth Symphony has also proven to be a work with enormous pop-cultural staying power, thanks primarily to its powerful four-note opening motif-three short Gs followed by a long E-flat. Used in World War II-era Britain to open broadcasts of the BBC because it mimicked the Morse-code “V” for “Victory,” and used in the disco-era United States by Walter Murphy as the basis for his unlikely #1 pop hit “A Fifth Of Beethoven,” the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony have become a kind of instantly recognizable musical shorthand since they were first heard by the public on this day in 1808.
69 – Emperor Vitellius is captured and murdered by the Gemonian stairs in Rome.
1790 – The Turkish fortress of Izmail is stormed and captured by Suvorov and his Russian armies.
1807 – The Embargo Act, forbidding trade with all foreign countries, is passed by the U.S. Congress, at the urging of President Thomas Jefferson.
1809 – The Non-Intercourse Act, lifting the Embargo Act except for the United Kingdom and France, is passed by the U.S. Congress.
1851 – The first freight train is operated in Roorkee, India.
1864 – Savannah, Georgia falls to General William Tecumseh Sherman, concluding his “March to the Sea”.
1885 – Ito Hirobumi, a samurai, became the first Prime Minister of Japan.
1890 – Cornwallis Valley Railway begins operation between Kingsport and Kentville, Nova Scotia.
1894 – The Dreyfus affair begins in France, when Alfred Dreyfus is wrongly convicted of treason, on antisemitic grounds.
1920 – The GOELRO economic development plan is adopted by the 8th Congress of Soviets of the Russian SFSR.
1937 – The Lincoln Tunnel opens to traffic in New York City.
1940 – World War II: Himare is captured by the Greek army.
1942 – World War II: Adolf Hitler signs the order to develop the V-2 rocket as a weapon.
1944 – World War II: Battle of the Bulge – German troops demand the surrender of United States troops at Bastogne, Belgium, prompting the famous one word reply by General Anthony McAuliffe: “Nuts!”
1944 – World War II: The People’s Army of Vietnam is formed to resist Japanese occupation of Indo-China, now Vietnam.
1947 – The Constituent Assembly of Italy approves the Constitution of Italy.
1951 – The Selangor Labour Party is founded in Selangor, Malaya.
1956 – Colo is born, the first gorilla to be bred in captivity.
1963 – The cruise ship Lakonia burns 180 miles north of Madeira with the loss of 128 lives.
1964 – First flight of the SR-71 (Blackbird).
1965 – In the United Kingdom, a 70mph speed limit is applied to all rural roads including motorways for the first time. Previously, there had been no speed limit.
1974 – Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli vote to become the independent nation of Comoros. Mayotte remains under French administration.
1974 – The house of former British Prime Minister Ted Heath is attacked by members of the Provisional IRA.
1978 – The pivotal Third Plenum of the 11th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is held in Beijing, with Deng Xiaoping reversing Mao-era policies to pursue a program for Chinese economic reform.
1984 – Bernhard Hugo Goetz shoots four would-be African-American muggers on an express train in Manhattan, New York City.
1988 – Chico Mendes, a Brazilian rubber tapper, unionist and environmental activist, is assassinated.
1989 – After a week of bloody demonstrations, Ion Iliescu takes over as president of Romania, ending Nicolae Ceausescu’s Communist dictatorship.
1989 – Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate re-opens after nearly 30 years, effectively ending the division of East and West Germany.
1990 – Final independence of Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia after termination of trusteeship.
1990 – The Parliament of Croatia adopts the current Constitution of Croatia.
1992 – The Archives of Terror are discovered.
1997 – Acteal massacre: Attendees at a prayer meeting of Roman Catholic activists for indigenous causes in the small village of Acteal in the Mexican state of Chiapas are massacred by paramilitary forces.
1997 – Hussein Aidid relinquishes the disputed title of President of Somalia by signing the Cairo Declaration, in Cairo, Egypt. It is the first major step towards reconciliation in Somalia since 1991.
2001 – Burhanuddin Rabbani, political leader of the Afghan Northern Alliance, hands over power in Afghanistan to the interim government headed by President Hamid Karzai.
2001 – Richard Reid attempts to destroy a passenger airliner by igniting explosives hidden in his shoes aboard American Airlines Flight 63.
2008 – An ash dike ruptured at a solid waste containment area in Roane County, Tennessee, releasing 1.1 billion gallons of coal fly ash slurry.
* Christian Feast Day:
o Anastasia of Sirmium(Orthodox church)
o O Rex
* Mother’s Day ([Indonesia)
* Unity Day (Zimbabwe)
* Winter solstice related observance (see December 21):
o Dongzhi Festival (East Asia)