December is now the 12th month of the Gregorian (New Style) calendar and has 31 days.
In the old Roman calendar, the year started with March and was divided into ten months, of which December was the last, as it is now and that is why it is derived from the Latin word decem, or ten.
- Again, even after the Roman calendar was extensively revised with two additional months (January and February placed at the beginning of the year), December continued to keep its incorrect name.
- There were several attempts to re-name the month of December for emperors or their wives, mistresses, or other relatives.
- None of the attempts to change the name of December ever lasted for very long.
- The Saturnalia was the best known Roman festival held in December.
- It was originally celebrated on December 17, but was gradually extended for seven additional days to December 24; therefore, including the time of the winter solstice.
- Very little is known about the original form of the Saturnalian rituals.
- It is thought that they were undoubtedly connected with agriculture, since their timing coincided with the completion of the autumnal sowing at the onset of the coldest season of the year.
- The festival of the Saturnalia had many of the characteristics of our modern Christmas in that social disticntions disapeared as all persons greeted one another with a cheerful “Io Saturnalia” (Hurrah Saturnalia); exchanged presents (traditionally wax candles and little terra-cotta dolls); and celebrated with “merriment; reveling, and feasting”.
- December is another misnamed month that no society or authority has been able to change because of its long tradition or perhaps because most people are not even aware of its original meaning and inappropriate connotation.
Americans have more time-saving devices and less time for worthy projects than any other people in the world.
Sources of information for this page are located at this Calendars Bibliography Unit.