The Month of December
December Means “Tenth”
The name is derived from decem, meaning “ten” in Latin, because in the ancient Roman calendar, December was the tenth month of the year. At the time, the calendar only had ten months and began with March. This is why the name December no longer corresponds with the placement in the Julian and Gregorian calendars.
Early Names for December
- Middle English: Decembre
- Latin: December - tenth month
- Old English: Geol-monaþ (month before yule)
History of December
Originally, December was the last month of the Roman calendar since the winter period was not assigned months. It originally consisted of 30 days but was shortened to 29 days when January and February were added to the calendar around 700 BCE. During the Julian calendar reform, two days were added to December, making it 31 days long.
Winter North of the Equator
December is the seasonal equivalent of June in the opposite hemisphere. The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, is the December solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. However, in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the summer solstice.
The birthstone for December is the blue turquoise or zircon. December's birth flowers vary according to location. In the US, the paperwhite Narcissus (Euphorbia pulcherrima) has the honor. In the English system, December's birth flower is either the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) or holly (Ilex aquifolium), both symbolizing hope.