‘I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
‘We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,’
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.’
— Oliver Herford
1. The darkest month.
December in Canada is the darkest month. Toronto gets about 8.8 hours of daylight in December. Edmonton gets more than an hour less at 7.4 hours. Winnipeg clocks in about 8 hours a day. Want to know what the daylight hours in your city are? Check here: https://nrc.canada.ca/en/research-development/products-services/software-applications/sun-calculator/
2. Snowfall in December.
In spite of popular rumour, Winnipeg is not the snowiest city in Canada, although December is its snowiest month. Winnipeg gets an average of 9 inches of December snow, but even Toronto beats it at 9.5 inches, less than half of what Barrie, Ontario—just 100 kilometers north—gets at 20 inches; Saint John, New Brunswick gets a little less, at 19.6. The snowiest December of the major Canadian cities is Quebec City with an average of 28.5 inches of snow. In contrast, Calgary and Edmonton get very little (5.9 inches and 6.4 inches respectively). Saskatoon is tied with Victoria at 5.5 inches.
3. The tenth month.
“Dicem”, the root of the word December, is the Latin name for tenth, the place December fell on the 304-day Roman calendar. In those days on the Roman calendar, there was no January or February so you can imagine what havoc was played with the seasons. This calendar was short-lived, but December lives on in immortal memory.
4. Festivus for the rest of us.
Festivus occurs on December 23. It is an imaginary holiday dreamed up by Dan O’Keefe, a writer for the TV sitcom, Seinfeld. Apparently, his family started celebrating this protest against the commercialism of Christmas in 1966. According to O’Keefe and Seinfeld tradition, it is celebrated with a naked aluminum pole instead of an evergreen tree.
5. The month of holidays.
Everything seems to take place in December, including the first day of winter (December 21), Christmas, Hanukkah, Pearl Harbour Day, International Human Rights Day… Even the Nobel Prize is handed out in December on the 10th, Nobel’s birthday. It is of course New Year’s Eve, and Monkey Day on December 14. In the U.S, December 15 is the Bill of Rights Day and in Indonesia, it’s Mother’s Day.
6. Only in Canada, you say?
Well, not quite, but Boxing Day does set us apart from our American neighbours, where only six of the southernmost states celebrate this traditional English holiday. Boxing Day is the day set aside for gift giving to servants and employees who, in the old days, got a box of goodies from the boss for being available to serve on Christmas day. Boxing Day is celebrated in most of the Commonwealth countries and many of the former colonies, but also in some Nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden.
7. St. Stephen’s Day.
You will remember that Good King Wenceslas walked out on the Feast of Stephen. St. Stephen’s Day also occurs on December 26. The king was bent on a mission of mercy to give a peasant some alms but, along the way, his servant almost succumbed to the heavy snow and cold. His royal highness took the lead, telling the servant to step in his footsteps, which somehow seemed warmer, and together they completed their journey. Wenceslas’ goodness was celebrated in song in 1853 by an Englishman, John Mason Neale, who wrote the lyrics to the Christmas carol to a tune based on a 13th-century song dedicated to spring. St. Stephen’s Day is celebrated in Italy, Finland and parts of France.
8. Day of the Wren.
In Ireland, the tradition of December 26 is to dress up in masks and straw suits and colourful clothing. They place a false wren on the top of a pole (it used to be a live one) and parade through the streets with musical groups asking for a penny or two. This was a contribution to a town dance held later that night. This tradition may have had something to do with the fact that European wrens are known to sing in midwinter.
9. December upside down.
In the southern hemisphere, December is the beginning of summer – the opposite of June in the north. Also interesting: December starts on the same weekday as September and it ends on the same day of the week as April every year.
10. All the symbols.
The birth flower of December is narcissus. The stones for December are turquoise, tanzanite and zircon. December is the zodiac month of Sagittarius and Capricorn.