December is the twelfth and final month of the Julian and Gregorian calendars as well as being the last month consisting of 31 days. Like many months in the year, December derived its name from Roman times, when it was the 10th month and the Latin word for ten was ‘dec’. For countries in the northern hemisphere, it is deep winter where days are dark and cold and may even experience snowfall.
On the other hand, it’s high summer in the southern hemisphere with long days of hot, sunny weather. Because the lengths of daytime and nighttime at the respective southern and northern poles reach their peak, December 21 is the date of the summer and winter solstices.
Looking up to the night sky, one can observe the constellations of Sagittarius and Capricorn, while the meteor showers including Andromedids, Canis-Minorids, Coma Berenicids, Delta Cancrids, Geminids, Monocerotids, Phoenicids, Sigma Hydrids and the Ursids streak the sky with shooting stars during this month.
In religion, December is a significant month for several faiths. Starting with Christianity, December sees believers celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas Day (25 December), while Catholics also observe the Feast of the Holy Family on 29 December. Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hasan Askari, in 260 A.H. on 5 December, as well as the Death of Harun Rashid on 27 December. Jewish people celebrate Shabbat Mevorchim on 21 December, and Hanukkah between 23 and 30 December each year.
Throughout history, significant events have also taken place in December. Looking at the 18th century, for example, the infamous Boston Tea Party took place on 16 December 1773. In the middle of WWI, warring sides called a truce on Christmas Day 1914 and played a friendly game of football on the Western Front in France.
Just two years later, on December 18, 1916, the Battle of Verdun finally concluded after ten months of fighting in which a million men lost their lives. In the aftermath of the deadly war, the Locarno Treaties were signed in 1925 by Belgium, France, and Germany in the hopes of preventing another war on that scale from ever happening again.
The peace would not last, however, and by 1939 the world was again plunged into a global war that would last until 1945. On December 7, 1941, imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, a US naval base in Hawaii. It was a major tactical victory for Japan at the time, but it also drew the US into the war, which would culminate in the US dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to force the nation’s absolute surrender.
In 1865, the 13 Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, which abolished slavery. The fight for equality would continue for decades to come, reaching its peak in the turbulent 1950s and 1960s. An example of this was in 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus for which she was arrested. This ignited a year-long boycott of public transport by African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama.
The 1950s was a tumultuous time in the US not just because of the Civil Rights Movement. With the US in the grips of the Cold War, Senator McCarthy fuelled the Red Scare, which was the paranoia of communism and anarchy in America, in what would come to be known as McCarthyism. He would be condemned for his actions on 2 December 1954.
Notable figures born in December include: Walt Disney (1901), Eli Whitney (1765), Ludwig van Beethoven (1770), Jane Austen (1775), Joseph Smith (1805), Mao Tse-Tung (1893), Louis Pasteur (1822), Woodrow Wilson (1856), Max Born (1882).