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 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.
- December 10 marks the beginning of Hanukkah. The 8-night festival of lights begins at sundown on the 10th and ends at sundown on the 18th.
- December 13is 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 15 is Bill of Rights Day.
- December 17 is Wright Brothers Day.
- 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.
- December 26 is Boxing Day (Canada, UK) and the first day of Kwanzaa.
- 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.
“Just for Fun” Holidays
Did you know that December is National Pear Month? Celebrate these fun holidays this month:
- Dec. 11: International Mountain Day
- Dec. 13: National Violin Day
- Dec. 13: National Day of the Horse
- Dec. 20: Underdog Day
- Dec. 26: National Candy Cane Day
December Moon & Astronomy
The month of December brings the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the shortest day of the year (the day with the least amount of daylight).
In 2020, the solstice is on Monday, December 21. See our Winter Solstice page to learn more about the first day of winter.
Full Cold Moon
December’s full Moon, the full Cold Moon, appears on Tuesday, December 29, reaching peak illumination at 10:30 P.M. EST. Read more about the Full Cold Moon.
Geminid Meteor Shower
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.
Recipes for the Season
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!
Christmas always falls in December. To help you prepare for this holiday season, check out our excellent recipe collections below.
- See 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.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to prepare your garden for winter.
Planning on getting a Christmas tree? See our advice for choosing and caring for a Christmas tree!
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 in the spring. Hold off on fertilizing as well. See tips for growing houseplants and check out our Growing Guides for Aloe vera, spider plants, jade plants, and more houseplants.
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, one of December’s birthstones
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.
Learn more about the December Birth Flowers and what they symbolize.
December’s Zodiac signs are:
- Sagittarius: November 23–December 21
- Capricorn: December 22–January 19
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.
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.