The Month of December 2023: Holidays, Fun Facts, Folklore

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Everything You Should Know About December

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How many holidays are in December? More than you might imagine! Learn about feasts, festivals of lights, and shooting stars! Also, find out why December is no longer the 10th month of the year.

Why December’s Not the 10th Month

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 initially the 10th month of the Roman calendar (until 153 BC). Hence, “December” comes from the Latin decem, meaning â€śten.”

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. After January and February were added to the calendar (around 700 BCE), December was shortened to 29 days. Then, two days were added to December in the subsequent Julian calendar, making it 31 days long.

Learn about all twelve months’ names.

December Holidays

  • December 3 is the First Sunday of Advent, marking the beginning of the Advent season.
  • December 6 is Saint Nicholas Day. The patron saint of children is the model for Santa Claus and gift-giving. 
  • December 7 marks the beginning of  Hanukkah this year, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights. 
  • December 7 is also National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
  • December 8 is Bodhi Day in the Buddist calendar, celebrating Buddha’s enlightenment; it’s celebrated in a way that’s similar to how Christians celebrate Christmas to honor Jesus Christ. 
  • 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 15 is Bill of Rights Day.
  • December 17 is Wright Brothers Day.
  • December 21 is the Winter Solstice—the astronomical day when the Earth is farthest away from the Sun. Starting in ancient times, people celebrated the rebirth of the Sun event through Yule.
  • 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

Celebrate these fun holidays this month:

  • Dec. 11: International Mountain Day
  • Dec. 13: National Violin Day
  • Dec. 13: National Day of the Horse
  • Dec. 16: Underdog Day
  • Dec. 26: National Candy Cane Day

Meteor Showers

December Astronomy

Winter Solstice

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 2023, the solstice occurs on Thursday, 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 26, reaching peak illumination at 7:33 A.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 meets a waning gibbous Moon, meaning that the sky will still be affected somewhat by the light of the Moon. If the sky is clear and temperatures aren’t too chilly, it’s still worth venturing outside to try to see the Geminids.

Check out our Geminid Meteor Shower page for more info, and see our Meteor Showers Guide for dates and viewing tips.

Gingerbread cookies

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!
—Beggar’s rhyme.

Christmas always falls in December. Check out our excellent recipe collections below to help you prepare for this holiday season.

Poinsettia plant


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 grow 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.

Everyday Advice

To help you with this holiday season, check out some of our tips and fun crafts:

Tanzanite, one of December’s birthstones

December Birthstone

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. 

The Zodiac

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 your grandmother’s house. We’ve posted the extended weather forecast 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 and 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 it was 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. Notable scientific organizations in Philadelphia, London, and Paris discussed the findings. Still, there were skeptics about the idea of meteorites, including U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, who said, “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.

Whew! December is a busy, fun-filled month filled with merriment to keep us active during the cold, dark days. Just remember to grab a cup of cocoa and relax when you can!

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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