01 December 2012


And after him came next the chill December:
Yet he, through merry feasting which he made
And great bonfires, did not the cold remember;
His Saviour’s birth his mind so much did glad:
Upon a shaggy-bearded Goat he rode,
The same wherewith Dan Jove in tender years,
They say, was nourisht by th' Iaean Maid;
And in his hand a broad deep bowl he bears,
Of which he freely drinks an health to all his peers.

“Like the three preceding months, December derives its name from the place which it held in the old Roman calendar, which divided the year into ten months, December (the tenth) being the last.  The ancient Saxons called this the Wintermonath, or Winter Month, but after their conversion to Christianity they changed the name to Halig Monath, or Holy Month, in honor of the Christmas anniversary on the 25th.” 
                                                                                         Curiosities of Popular Customs, p. 324

Astronomy for December:

The full moon on the 28th is the Cold Moon or Hunting Moon.

Solstice occurs at 6:12 am (EST) on December 21stThe Old Farmer’s Almanac says that it is the earliest winter since 1896.

Meteor Showers
The spectacular Geminid Meteor Shower peaks in the overnight hours of December 13 – 14. No moon that night (and hopefully no clouds), so start watching from about 8 pm until dawn. 

The Ursid Meteor Shower , when it takes place (and it doesn’t always), runs from December 17 through 25, but the peak is on December 22-23.  The moon will be waxing, and at peak will set a couple of hours after midnight, so the best watching is in the (brrrrrrr) predawn hours.

Novenas for December

December is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.

Saint Nicholas                        continues from 27 November
Immaculate Conception       continues from 29 November.  Also here and here.
Advent                                     continues from 30 November. Not actually a novena, as it is said 15 times each day from Saint Andrew’s day until Christmas.
Our Lady of Guadalupe         begins 3 December.  Also here and here.
Saint Lucy                                begins 4 December.
Christmas                                 begins 16 December.  Also here, here, and here.
Epiphany                                  begins 28 December

[Note, because someone asked.  You can say novenas at any time, just as you can say prayers at any time.  Many people like to pray specific novenas nine days before the specific festival, hence the timetable above.]
Ember Days
12/19:  Weather today foretells the weather of January
12/21:  Weather today foretells the weather of February
12/22:  Weather today foretells the weather of March

Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire and Christmas treat.

Weather for December:
Based on the 12 Days of Christmas: Sunny and less cold.
Based on the first 12 days of January: Rain, wind, cold, raw.  Brrrr…
Based on the Ember Days: Dark clouds in the morning, bright sunshine in the afternoon.

The last Sunday of the month indicates the weather for next month: The last Sunday of November had clear skies and high winds, very chilly high winds.

Weather Lore for December:
December cold with snow is good for rye.

December’s frost and January’s flood
Never boded the husbandman good.

Thunder in December presages fine weather.
                     On the other hand
If it thunders in December, there will be cold weather.
                    Along with
Thunder in December signifieth cheapness of corn and wheat, with peace and accord among the people.

12/1 – 3: As the first three days of December, so will be the first three months of the year.

12/2: If it rains on St. Bibiana’s day, it will rain for forty days and a week.

On the other hand, optimists may prefer:
         If it rains on the first Sunday of the month before Mass, it will rain for a week.

         If it storms on the first Sunday of the month, it will storm every Sunday that month.

12/12-31: The general character of the weather during the last twenty days of December will rule the weather for winter.

12/13: If St. Lucy’s day be bright, Christmas day will be dark with snow; but if the snow falls on St. Lucy, Christmas will be clear and sunny.

           The weather on each of the twelve days from St. Lucy to Christmas Eve presages the weather for the twelve months in the coming year.

12/14: Halcyon Days begin.

12/21: Look at a weathercock at 12:00 noon on St. Thomas’ Day and see which way the wind is – for there it will stay for the next (lunar) quarter.

           Frost on the shortest day is said to indicate a severe winter.

           If it freezes on the shortest day of the year, the price of corn will fall;
           If it be mild weather, the price of corn will go up.

           As the wind and weather at the solstice, so will they be for the next three months.

12/24: As the weather is on St. Adam and Eve, so will it be until the end of the month, and also will be mostly throughout the next year.

            If Christmas Eve is bright and clear, then follows a very fruitful year.

          When on Christmas night and evening it is very fair and clear weather, and is without wind and rain, then it is a token that this year will have plenty of wine and fruit.
          If it is foul weather and windy, so shall the year be very scant of wine and fruit.
          If the wind should arise at the rising of the sun, then there will be a great dearth of cattle.
          If the wind should arise at the setting of the sun, then there will come death to kings and other leaders.

12/25: If the sun shines clear and bright on Christmas day, it promises a peaceful year, free from clamors and strife, and foretells a plentiful year.
          A green Christmas makes a fat churchyard.

          So many hours of sun on Christmas Day,
          So many frosts in the month of May.

          A warm Christmas, a cold Easter; A green Christmas, a white Easter.
          Easter in snow, Christmas in mud; Christmas in snow, Easter in mud.

          If it rains on Christmas, there will be four weeks with no sun.

         A windy Christmas is a sign of a good year to come.

         A windy Christmas and a calm Candlemas are signs of a good year.

         When Christmas day cometh while the moon waxeth, it shall be a very good year, and the nearer it cometh to the full moon, the better shall that year be.  If it cometh when the moon decreaseth, it shall be a hard year, and the nearer to the latter end, the worse and harder shall the year be.  [And the moon waxeth until full on the 28th.]

          A green Christmas, a good harvest.
                         On the other hand
           If it snows during Christmas night, the crops will do well.
           If it snows on Christmas night, there will be a good crop of hops next year [and hops make beer, and beer makes the Widow’s heart merry.  This may be the only time I hope for snow.]

            Light Christmas, light wheatsheaf;
            Dark Christmas, heavy wheatsheaf.
           A bright Christmas foretells that hens will lay well.
                        On the other hand
           A dark Christmas foretells that cows will give much milk.
           [This year Christmas will be very bright.  A good egg year coming!]

           If the sun shines through an apple tree on Christmas, there will be an abundant crop of apples in the coming year.

           If there is much wind on Christmas Day, trees will bear much fruit [and they are not talking about the emissions after a heavy Christmas lunch!]

           If at Christmas, ice hangs on the willow, then clover may be cut at Easter [i.e. early Spring, and pasturage for the animals, a good thing.]

           If the wind grows stormy before sunset on Christmas, it betokens sickness in the coming spring and autumn. [Well, there’s an easy bet, whether it is stormy or not!]

          On Christmas day, place twelve onions in a row, each with a pinch of salt on the top, The first onion on the left represents January, the next February, and so on.
          On Epiphany, check the onions.  If the salt has melted on any one of them, the corresponding month will be wet; where the salt remains, that month will be dry.

          Thunder during Christmas week indicates that there will be much snow during the winter.

          The twelve days from Christmas to January 5th are said to be the key to the weather for the following twelve months.

          If it rains much during the 12 days of Christmas, it will be a wet year.

          If the days between Christmas and Epiphany are dark and foggy, there will be much sickness next year.

          If it sleets between Christmas and Epiphany, there will be a good mast year.

         If the sun shines on the 1st day of Christmas, there will be abundance and much joy in the world.
         If it shines on the 2nd day, then money will be easily come by.
        On the 3rd day, there will be a great fight among poor men, but peace between rulers and powerful men.
        On the 4th day, there will be a great lost of money.
        On the 5th day, there shall be a great bloom of fruit that year.
        On the 6th day, there will be much milk.
        On the 7th day, there will be a good crop on the trees.
        On the 8th day, then quicksilver will be easy to get.
        On the 9th day, then God shall send a great baptism that year.
        On the 10th day, then will the oceans and rivers have a great supply of fish.
        On the 11th day, then will there be many deaths among men.
        On the 12th day, men will be weak, and the earth will be quiet.
                                                                                           From a c1120 manuscript.
12/26: If on St. Stephen’s Day there is much wind, it betokens a bad grape harvest next year, and the wine will be poor.

12/27: If St. John’s day is dark, the following year will be good.

12/28: If it be lowering and wet on Childermas Day, there will be scarcity; while if the day be fair, it promises plenty.

12/30: The weather on the last Sunday of the month presages the weather for the following month.

12/31: Wind on St. Sylvester’s day seldom brings good wine.

                     Then again,
           A north wind blowing on New Year’s night foretells a fruitful season.

                    Or not.
           If on New Year’s Eve, the wind blows south, it betokens much warmth and growth;
           If west, much milk, and fish in the sea;
           If north, much cold and storms there’ll be;
           If east, the trees will bear much fruit;
           If north-east, flee it, man and brute.

           If the old year goes out like a lion, the new year will come in like a lamb. [And you thought that just pertained to March, didn’t you.]

Gardening for December

Then Ivy and Holly Berries are seen,
And Yule Clog and Wassail come round again.

12/21 - “Plant shallots on the shortest day and harvest them on the longest” (June 21)

According to the 1817 Almanac: “Set all Sorts of Stones, Kernels, &c.  Plant Vines, and Stocks for Grafting; trench Ground, and dung it for Borders.”

“Towards the end of the Month, sow Radishes, Carrots, and Lettuce on warm Borders.  Sow Cresses, Mustard, and other Sallad Herbs on a moderately hot Bed, and cover them with Mats.”

“Plant all Sorts of Trees that shed their Leaves.”

Cassell’s Illustrated Almanac (1871) for November:
Flowers – Dig out the borders, re-arrange the beds if required, and protect the roots of all tender plants. Open the pits freely in the finer days of the month, but water very sparingly, if at all.

Vegetables – Attend to the autumn-sown plants, removing decayed leaves, &c. Onions may be planted where the ground is dry.

Fruit – Mulch over the roots of tender trees, such as apricot and peach, as they are often so far affected by frost as to be barren in the coming year.

Health for December

"Keep your Feet warm by Exercise, your Head cool through Temperance; never eat till you are hungry, nor drink but when Nature requires it."


December. Engraving by Samuel Williams. William Hone, The Everyday Book and Table Book, (1838), p. 1343.

Immaculate Conception.  Francesco de Zurbaran, c1628.

December – Threshing and Winnowing. Engraving based on an 11th century manuscript. William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898), p. 324.