Month of December
The name "December" means "tenth month". In the original Roman calendar it was indeed the tenth month. The year then began in March, January and February did not exist. To help regularize the calendar a bit, the second King of Rome, Numa Pompilius, added January and February. January was made the first month in 153 B.C. moving it from March. Although December changed position to the twelfth month, no one ever changed the name. The name would come to England through the Old French. It replaced the Old English word, [Ęrra]-Geol-monaž, which meant "month before yule", literally, "first passing - changing - month".
December began with 30 days. Numa dropped one in his reform and Julius added back two when he performed his own reform in 46 B.C. (The Roman's thought even numbers were unlucky, so they tried to make as many months as possible odd numbered.)
The premier holiday of the month of December is undoubtedly Christmas which is vigorously celebrated in most western countries, even in those where the Christian tradition has been waning. It is celebrated on the 25th and is a commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is celebrated in the United States with various traditions that include gift-giving, decorated trees, feasts, and family visitations.
Hanukkah is also during this month. Officially it begins on the eve of the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, and ends eight days later. It commemorates the defeat of the Syrian tyrant Antiochus IV in 165 B.C. It includes gift-giving and is marked by the daily lighting of candles on a candelabra.
One celebration that runs over into the next month, and the next year as well, is New Year's Eve on 31 December. This involves saying good-bye to the old year and rejoicing in the new one. In the United States it is often marked by fire-works, dropping a ball in Central Park, parties with dancing and snacks.
The month contains the winter-solstice, which is the point in the Earth's revolution about the sun where the sun reaches its most southerly declination. This is the shortest day of the year and occurs on or about 22 December. It also marks the beginning of the official winter season.
December is the real beginning of winter in northern climes. The month is often used as a metaphor for the declining age of individuals in story and biography, such as the oft used phrase that this or that person was in the "December of his life". But the idea of decline, cold and darkness are undoubtedly overshadowed by the joy, excitement and preparations that are part and parcel of the "Holiday Season", which generally is thought to include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years Eve.
The birthstone for December is the turquoise.
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