The Month of December 2017: Holidays, Fun Facts, Folklore

All About the Month of December

Christmas Setting
Pixabay

Welcome to December! This month brings with it snow (for many), family, feasts, and fun, but remember to grab some hot cocoa during this winter month and relax when you can.

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat,
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat;
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you!

Beggar’s rhyme.

Calendar

December comes from the Latin word decem, meaning “ten” because this was the tenth month of the early Roman calendar. Learn about all twelve months’ names.

  • December 6 is Saint Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, inspires traditions around the world from hunts for presents to stockings or shoes filled with sweets. 
  • December 7 is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
  • Hanukkah begins at sundown on Tuesday, December 12, and ends at sundown on the 20th. 
  • December 13 is St. Lucia’s Day, which has long been associated with festivals of light. Before the Gregorian calendar reform in 1752, her feast day occurred on the shortest day of the year (hence the saying “Lucy light, Lucy light, shortest day and longest night”).
  • December 21 is the Winter Solstice—the astronomical first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and first day of summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • December 25 is Christmas Day, a Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Learn more about American Christmas Traditions.
  • On the last evening of the year, December 31, kiss the person you hope to keep kissing! Discover New Years traditions from around the world.

Gingerbread cookies

Recipes for the Season

To help you prepare for this holiday season, check out our Christmas Dinner Recipe page for all kinds of delicious Christmas recipes—from drinks to dessert.

Speaking of dessert, see our Christmas Dessert Recipes page to satisfy your sweet tooth. 

Going to a party? You may enjoy our Christmas Appetizer Recipes and Christmas Party Recipes.

Baking cookies for friends and family? Visit our 12 Days of Cookies page for our favorite cookie recipes—and wash them down with George Washington’s Christmas Eggnog

Baking with kids? Check out our list of Christmas Cookie Recipes for Kids.

Need a gift for a cook? Give him or her 118 scrumptious recipes for cookies, pies, cakes, breads, and more home-baked goods with our Everyday Baking cookbook!

Poinsettia plant

Gardening

This is a good time to start pruning dead and dangerous limbs from trees. 

If you enjoy holiday plants, here are tips on plant care for poinsettia, Christmas cactus, and amaryllis.

As houseplants are growing more slowly in December light, cut down on watering by half until active growth resumes. Hold off on fertilizing as well. See tips on growing houseplants and check out our Growing Guides for Aloe Vera, Spider Plants, Jade, and more houseplants.

Meteor Showers

Astronomy

December’s full Moon, the Full Cold Moon, occurs on December 3 at 10:47 A.M. EST. See our December Full Moon page.

The dark winter night sky is a joy to behold. See our monthly Sky Watch for highlights of the December sky.

Look skyward on the nights of December 13 and 14 after 9 P.M. for a chance to catch a glimpse of the Geminid meteors. The Geminid meteor shower is the most active shower of the year. Check out our Geminid Meteor Shower page for more info, and see our Meteor Showers Guide for dates and viewing tips.

Everyday Advice

To help you with this holiday season, check out some of our tips and fun crafts:
The Holiday Table: Setting and Decorating
Holiday Cooking and Cleaning Checklist
Christmas Tree Care Tips
Make Your Own Holiday Candle 

Tanzanite

December Birthstone

December’s traditional birthstone is the turquoise. It is considered a symbol of good fortune and success. Zircon and tanzanite are also considered to be December birthstones. See the December Birthstone page to learn more.

holly

December Birth Flower

December’s birth flowers are the holly and the paperwhite—a relative of the daffodil with lovely white blooms. Learn more about the December Birth Flowers.

The Zodiac

December’s Zodiac signs are:

  • Sagittarius: November 23–December 21
  • Capricorn: December 22–January 19

Get your Zodiac Profile!

Folklore for the Season

Know the weather before you head off to that Christmas event or travel to grandmother’s house. We’ve posted the long-range weather for December and January.

  • December changeable and mild, the whole winter will remain a child.
  • Thunder in December presages fine weather.
  • Frost on the shortest day is said to indicate a severe winter.
  • December cold, with snow, brings rye everywhere.

This Month in History

December 14, 1807: Space Invader

At 6:30 a.m. on this day in 1807, residents from Vermont to Connecticut looked up at the sky and saw a red fireball. About two-thirds the size of a full Moon, it raced across the heavens, broke apart, and fell to earth in at least six areas of Weston (now Easton), Trumbull, and Fairfield, Connecticut. Whizzing sounds were heard close to the impact sites, and three sonic booms were heard as far as 40 miles away. The entire event took about 30 seconds.

Upon hearing the news a few days later, Yale professor Benjamin Silliman, accompanied by his colleague, professor James Kingsley, traveled to the impact area to talk to witnesses, examine impact sites, and collect specimens (including some that enterprising townsfolk were selling as souvenirs). Silliman confirmed that it had been a meteorite—the first officially recorded in the New World.

Meteorites, rocks that fell from space, were a concept slowly gaining acceptance in Europe, but their study was still a relatively new science. In an article in the Connecticut Herald published on December 29, Silliman and Kingsley described the Weston event. The news rapidly spread to other newspapers, and accounts were published in literary and philosophical journals. Later, Silliman performed a chemical analysis of the rocks and published a revised report. The findings were discussed by notable scientific organizations in Philadelphia, London, and Paris. Still, there were skeptics about the idea of meteorites, including U.S. president Thomas Jefferson, who was said to have remarked, “It is easier to believe that two Yankee professors could lie than to admit that stones could fall from heaven.” 

Fun Fact: Silliman’s and Kingsley’s Weston meteorite fragments were the first cataloged items in the Yale meteorite collection, which is the oldest in the United States.

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