ABC It is Easy As 1,2,3……May I present our Calendar? December Is Our Star!
Have you ever wondered, “How did the months of the year get their names?” The months’ names reflect a mix of gods, goddesses, rulers, and numbers. Discover how our calendar developed into what it is today.
How Our Calendar Came to Be
The Ancient Roman Calendar
Today, we follow the Gregorian calendar, but it’s based on the ancient Roman calendar, believed to be invented by Romulus, who served as the first king of Rome around 753 BC.
The Roman calendar, a complicated lunar calendar, had 12 months like our current calendar, but only 10 of the months had formal names. Basically, winter was a “dead” period when the government and military weren’t active, so they only had names for the time we think of as March through December.
March (Martius) was named for Mars, the god of war, because this was the month when active military campaigns resumed. May (Maius) and June (Junius) were also named for goddesses: Maia and Juno. April (Aprilis) is thought to stem from the Latin aperio, meaning “to open”—a reference to the opening buds of springtime. The rest of the months were numbered; their original names in Latin meant the fifth (Quintilis), sixth (Sextilis), seventh (September), eighth (October), ninth (November), and tenth (December) month.
Eventually, January (Januarius) and February (Februarius) were added to the end of the year, giving all 12 months proper names. January was named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. February’s name is believed to stem from Februa, an ancient festival dedicated to ritual springtime cleaning and washing.
Julian Calendar Updates
When Julius Caesar became Pontifex Maximus, he reformed the Roman calendar so that the 12 months were based on Earth’s revolutions around the Sun. It was a solar calendar, as we have today. January and February were moved to the front of the year, and leap years were introduced to keep the calendar year lined up with the solar year.
The winter months (January and February) remained a time of reflection, peace, new beginnings, and purification. After Caesar’s death, the month Quintilis was renamed July in honor of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, and later, Sextilis was renamed August in honor of Roman Emperor Augustus in 8 BC.
Of course, all the renaming and reorganizing meant that some of the months’ names no longer agreed with their position in the calendar (September to December, for example). Later emperors tried to name various months after themselves, but those changes did not outlive them!
Today’s Gregorian Calendar
Quite a bit later, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced many reforms to the Julian calendar, as there were still some inaccuracies and adjustments to be made. Mainly, the Julian calendar had overestimated the time it took the Earth to orbit the Sun, so the Gregorian calendar shortened the calendar year from 365.25 days to 365.2425 days. This meant that the calendar could be more easily corrected by leap years and that the dates of the equinoxes and solstices—and thus, the date of Easter—once again lined up with their observed dates.
Origins of the Months’ Names
Named for the Roman god Janus, protector of gates and doorways. Janus is depicted with two faces, one looking into the past, the other into the future. In ancient Roman times, the gates of the temple of Janus were open in times of war and closed in times of peace.
From the Latin word februa, “to cleanse.” The Roman calendar month of Februarius was named for Februalia, a festival of purification and atonement that took place during this period.
Named for the Roman god of war, Mars. This was the time of year to resume military campaigns that had been interrupted by winter. March was also a time of many festivals, presumably in preparation for the campaigning season.
From the Latin word aperio, “to open (bud),” plants begin to grow in this month. In essence, this month was viewed as spring’s renewal.
Named for the Roman goddess Maia, who oversaw the growth of plants. Also, from the Latin word maiores, “elders,” who were celebrated during this month. Maia was considered a nurturer and an earth goddess, which may explain the connection with this springtime month.
Named for the Roman goddess Juno, patroness of marriage and the well-being of women. Also, from the Latin word juvenis, “young people.”
Named to honor Roman dictator Julius Caesar (100 B.C.– 44 B.C.) after his death. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar made one of his most significant contributions to history: With the help of Sosigenes, he developed the Julian calendar, the precursor to the Gregorian calendar we use today.
Named to honor the first Roman emperor (and grandnephew of Julius Caesar), Augustus Caesar (63 B.C.– A.D. 14). Augustus (the first Roman emperor) comes from the Latin word “augustus,” meaning venerable, noble, and majestic.
September comes from the Latin word septem, meaning “seven,” because it was the seventh month of the early Roman calendar.
In the ancient Roman calendar, October was the name of the eighth month of the year. Its name comes from octo, the Latin word for “eight.” When the Romans converted to a 12-month calendar, they tried to rename this month after various Roman emperors, but October’s name stuck!
In Old England, the month was called Winmonath, which means “wine month,” for this was the time of year when wine was made. The English also called it Winterfylleth, or “Winter Full Moon.” They considered this full Moon to be the start of winter. In weather lore, we note, “If October brings heavy frosts and winds, then will January and February be mild.”
From the Latin word novem, “nine,” this had been the ninth month of the early Roman calendar.
From the Latin word decem, “ten,” this had been the tenth month of the early Roman calendar.
More Information On December
In ancient Rome, the calendar had only ten months and a total of 304 days. The year would start in March, which was considered the beginning of spring. March was named after Mars, the Roman god of war. This was followed by April, May, and so on until December.
During the reign of King Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, the calendar was revised to include two additional months at the beginning of the year. This change was made to align the calendar with the lunar cycles and to account for the winter period, which was previously unaccounted for.
The months of January and February were added, with January becoming the first month of the year. January was named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. February, on the other hand, was named after the Latin word ‘februum’, which means purification. It was a month dedicated to religious rituals and cleansing.
With the addition of January and February, December was pushed to the twelfth and final month of the year. Despite these changes, the name ‘December’ has prevailed throughout history, maintaining its significance as the month that brings the year to a close.
December holds a special place in many cultures and religions around the world. In the northern hemisphere, it marks the beginning of winter, with shorter days and colder temperatures. It is a time when people gather with their loved ones to celebrate various holidays, such as Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.
Christmas, in particular, is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in December. It commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and is observed by Christians worldwide. The holiday is marked by festive decorations, gift-giving, and special religious services.
In addition to religious holidays, December also brings about a sense of reflection and anticipation for the upcoming year. Many people take the time to reflect on the past year, set goals for the future, and make resolutions for self-improvement.
December is also a month filled with cultural traditions and festivities. In some countries, such as Mexico, the celebration of Las Posadas takes place throughout the month. It eenacts Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem and involves processions, music, and food.
In Scandinavian countries, the celebration of St. Lucia’s Day on December 13th is a significant event. It honors St. Lucia, a Christian martyr, and is marked by processions of girls wearing white robes and candles on their heads.
Furthermore, December is a time when many people engage in acts of charity and giving. The holiday season often inspires individuals to donate to charitable organizations, volunteer their time, and help those in need.
Overall, December is a month that holds historical, cultural, and religious significance. It is a time of reflection, celebration, and giving. As the final month of the year, it symbolizes the end of one chapter and the beginning of another, making it a truly special time for people around the world.
The Etymology of December
The etymology of December traces back to the Roman word ‘decem’, which directly translates to ‘ten’. This word reflects the month’s original placement within the Roman calendar. The roots of the name highlight the evolving nature of calendars and the significance they hold in shaping our perceptions of time.
December, the twelfth and final month of the Gregorian calendar, has a rich history that goes beyond its etymology. It is a month filled with festivities, celebrations, and a sense of closure as the year comes to an end.
In ancient Rome, December marked the beginning of the winter season. The Romans believed that during this month, the god Saturn, the god of agriculture and time, reigned supreme. They celebrated the festival of Saturnalia, a week-long event filled with feasting, gift-giving, and revelry. It was a time when social norms were temporarily suspended, and people indulged in merriment and freedom.
As the Roman Empire expanded, December became a month of great significance in various cultures. In medieval Europe, it was a time of preparation for the upcoming winter months. People would gather supplies, stock up on food, and ensure their homes were well-insulated to withstand the harsh weather.
December also holds religious importance for many. It is a time when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day, which falls on the 25th of December. The holiday season brings people together, fostering a sense of unity and goodwill.
Furthermore, December is a month of reflection and introspection. As the year draws to a close, many individuals take the opportunity to evaluate their accomplishments, set goals for the future, and express gratitude for the experiences and challenges they have faced throughout the year.
December is also a time when nature undergoes significant changes. In the Northern Hemisphere, the days become shorter, and the temperatures drop, marking the official arrival of winter. Snow blankets the landscape, creating a serene and magical atmosphere. In contrast, in the Southern Hemisphere, December brings the arrival of summer, with longer days and warmer weather.
As we delve into the etymology of December, we discover a month that encompasses a multitude of cultural, religious, and natural elements. It is a time of celebration, reflection, and transition. The name itself serves as a reminder of the ancient Roman roots of our modern calendar and the enduring influence of history on our daily lives.
The Linguistic Roots of December
Beyond Latin, the linguistic origins of December can be found in various other languages. For example, in Spanish, December is called ‘diciembre’, while in French, it is known as ‘décembre’. These linguistic connections demonstrate how the name has permeated different cultures and languages throughout history.
As we delve deeper into the linguistic roots of December, we discover fascinating connections that span across continents and centuries. The name ‘December’ finds its origins in the Latin word ‘decem’, meaning ‘ten’. This is because December was originally the tenth month in the ancient Roman calendar.
Interestingly, the shift from December being the tenth month to the twelfth month in our modern calendar can be traced back to the reforms made by Julius Caesar. In 45 BCE, he introduced the Julian calendar, which added two additional months, January and February, at the beginning of the year. This adjustment pushed December to its current position as the twelfth month.
As the Roman Empire expanded its influence, so did the Latin language. Latin became the lingua franca of the Western world, and with it, the name ‘December’ spread to various regions. The Roman conquest of Gaul, for instance, brought Latin to what is now modern-day France. This is why in French, December is known as ‘décembre’, a direct reflection of its Latin roots.
Similarly, the Roman Empire’s conquest of Hispania, which comprises present-day Spain and Portugal, introduced Latin to the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish name for December, ‘diciembre’, is a testament to the lasting impact of Latin on the Spanish language.
It is fascinating to observe how the name ‘December’ has evolved and adapted as it traveled across different cultures and languages. In each region, it took on a unique phonetic form while still retaining its essence. This linguistic phenomenon highlights the interconnectedness of human history and the enduring influence of ancient civilizations.
Furthermore, the significance of December extends beyond its linguistic origins. It is a month that holds great cultural and religious significance for many communities around the world. In the Northern Hemisphere, December marks the beginning of winter, a season associated with festivities, traditions, and celebrations.
One of the most widely recognized celebrations in December is Christmas, which commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ in Christian tradition. Christmas is celebrated by millions of people worldwide, with various customs and rituals that vary from country to country. From decorating Christmas trees to exchanging gifts, the holiday season in December brings joy and togetherness.
In addition to Christmas, December is also home to other important holidays and observances. Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish celebration that usually falls in December. During this time, families light the menorah, exchange gifts, and enjoy traditional foods.
Moreover, December is a month of reflection and anticipation as the year draws to a close. It is a time for setting goals, making resolutions, and looking forward to the possibilities that the coming year holds.
So, as we explore the linguistic roots of December, we uncover a rich tapestry of history, culture, and tradition. From its Latin origins to its diverse manifestations in different languages, December is a month that bridges the past and the present, connecting us to our shared human heritage.
December in the Roman Calendar
The Roman calendar, as mentioned earlier, positioned December as the tenth month. However, understanding December’s place in this calendar requires a closer examination of its historical context.
The Early Roman Calendar and December
In the early period of the Roman calendar, which had ten months, December was considered the final month of the year. However, it only consisted of 30 days, highlighting the need for the calendar’s later modifications.
December’s Position in the Julian Calendar
With the introduction of the Julian calendar by Julius Caesar, December retained its position as the twelfth month. It was given 31 days to align the calendar more closely with the solar year. The Julian calendar laid the foundation for the calendar system used by many Western societies today.
December in Different Cultures
December’s significance extends beyond the Roman calendar. This month holds cultural importance in various societies worldwide.
December in the Gregorian Calendar
In the Gregorian calendar, December maintains its place as the twelfth and final month of the year. This calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, sought to correct the inaccuracies of the Julian calendar in relation to the solar year. As a result, December 31st marks the end of the year and is often celebrated with festivities and reflection.
December in Non-Western Cultures
While December holds prominence in Western cultures, it is essential to acknowledge that non-Western cultures have their own unique ways of marking this month. For example, in many East Asian countries, December is associated with the celebration of the Winter Solstice, a time when families gather to honor ancestors and eat traditional foods.
The Significance of December in History
The historical events that have occurred during December have shaped the course of human history and left lasting impressions on society.
Historical Events in December
December is often marked by significant historical milestones. From the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 to the Wright brothers’ first powered flight in 1903, December has been a witness to various groundbreaking achievements.
December in Religious Traditions
December holds profound religious significance in many traditions. For instance, Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25th, marking the birth of Jesus Christ. Additionally, Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, typically falls in December, celebrating the triumph of light over darkness.
Modern Interpretations of December
Beyond historical context, December has found its place in contemporary culture and is subject to modern interpretations.
December in Popular Culture
December is often depicted in popular culture as a month of joy and festivities. It is associated with holiday decorations, family gatherings, and reflections on the past year. Movies, songs, and literature often capture the essence of December, further contributing to its cultural significance.
Symbolism and Associations of December
December is often associated with themes such as winter, snow, and holiday cheer. It symbolizes the transition from one year to the next and offers a time for introspection and planning for the future. The symbolism attached to December varies across cultures, but common themes of renewal and hope prevail.
As we explore the origin of the name December and its complete history, we uncover a tapestry woven with cultural, historical, and linguistic threads. Whether it’s marked by winter solstice celebrations, historical milestones, or contemporary festivities, December continues to hold a special place in our hearts and calendars. It serves as a reminder of the passage of time, the significance of tradition, and the potential for new beginnings.
The winter blues have nothing on December’s birthstones: tanzanite, zircon, and turquoise.
All three of December’s birthstones are best known for their beautiful shades of blue. These gemstones range from the oldest on Earth to one of the first mined and used in jewelry, to one of the most recently discovered.
December’s birthstones are relatively inexpensive, but their beauty rivals even precious gemstones. Colorless zircon is a convincing replacement for diamond, tanzanite often substitutes sapphire, and turquoise is unmatched in its hue of robin’s egg blue.
So there you have it my friends……December!