December is the twelfth and the last month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars. It is also the last of seven months to have a length of 31 days.
December got its name from the Latin word decem (meaning ten) because it was originally the tenth month of the year in the calendar of Romulus c. 750 BC which began in March. The winter days following December were not included as part of any month. Later, the months of January and February were created out of the monthless period and added to the beginning of the calendar, but December retained its name.
In Ancient Rome, as one of the four Agonalia, this day in honour of Sol Indiges was held on December 11, as was Septimontium. Dies natalis (birthday) was held at the temple of Tellus on December 13, Consualia was held on December 15, Saturnalia was held December 17–23, Opiconsivia was held on December 19, Divalia was held on December 21, Larentalia was held on December 23, and the dies natalis of Sol Invictus was held on December 25. These dates do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.
December contains the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the day with the fewest daylight hours, and the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, the day with the most daylight hours (excluding polar regions in both cases). December in the Northern Hemisphere is the seasonal equivalent to June in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa. In the Northern hemisphere, the beginning of the astronomical winter is traditionally 21 December or the date of the solstice.
Meteor showers occurring in December are the Andromedids (September 25 – December 6, peaking around November 9), the Canis-Minorids (December 4 – December 15, peaking around December 10–11), the Coma Berenicids (December 12 to December 23, peaking around December 16), the Delta Cancrids (December 14 to February 14, the main shower from January 1 to January 24, peaking on January 17), the Geminids (December 13–14), the Monocerotids (December 7 to December 20, peaking on December 9. This shower can also start in November), the Phoenicids (November 29 to December 9, with a peak occurring around 5/6 December), the Quadrantids (typically a January shower but can also start in December), the Sigma Hydrids (December 4–15), and the Ursids (December 17-to December 25/26, peaking around December 22).
History of December
In the year 46 BCE, Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar system—the Julian calendar. He added ten days to the year and introduced the leap day. In the new Julian calendar, December was expanded to 31 days.
Historical Events in December
December 14, 1962 – First contact with another planet. The American space probe Mariner II traveled 107 days until it passed Venus—at only 34,773 km (21,607 mi) distance. Mariner II sent back measurements of Venus’ atmosphere and temperature on the planet’s surface.
December Birthstone and Birth Flowers
According to tradition, the birthstones for December are the turquoise, the zircon, and the tanzanite. Its birth flowers are the holly and the narcissus.