The Month of December 2021: Holidays, Fun Facts, Folklore
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Everything You Should Know About December
October 29, 2021
The month of December brings many holidays, feasts, and happenings! Learn all about the 12th month on the calendar, a short history, and what the month is known for! From St. Nicholas Day to the Geminid Meteor Shower to Christmas, it’s a busy month of the year. Just remember to grab a cup of cocoa and relax when you can.
The Month of December
December is the 12th month (and last month) in our modern-day Gregorian calendar (as it was in the preceding Julian calendar).
However, it was originally the 10th month of the Roman calendar (until 153 BC). Hence, “December” comes from the Latin word decem, meaning “ten.”
Back in Roman times, the calendar only had ten months and began with March! The winter period was not even assigned months because it was not an active time for military, agriculture, or civil life.
The month of December originally consisted of 30 days. When January and February were added to the calendar (around 700 BCE), December was shortened to 29 days. Then, in the subsequent Julian calendar, two days were added to December, making it 31 days long.
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”).
Look skyward on the night of December 13 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.
This year, the peak of the meteor shower lands just one day after the new Moon, meaning that the sky will be nice and dark—perfect for stargazing! If the sky is clear and temperatures aren’t too chilly, it’s worth venturing outside to try to see the Geminids.
December’s traditional birthstone is 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.
December Birth Flower
December’s birth flowers are the holly (Ilex aquifolium) and the paperwhite Narcissus (Euphorbia pulcherrima)—a relative of the daffodil with lovely white blooms.
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.
Odd Moments 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.