December draws its name from the Latin decem, meaning 'ten' - this is a lingering detail from the time when December was the tenth month of the ancient Roman calendar. It is the seventh of seven Gregorian months, with 31 days. December's birthstone is the turquoise and its traditional flowers are holly and the daffodil. December always begins on the same day of the week as September every year. In the Southern Hemisphere, December is the first month of summer.
In ancient Rome, secret women's rites were performed annually on this date in honour of Bona Dea, the Good Goddess. All males were barred from the ceremonies, which were conducted by vestal virgins.
In ancient Greece, this day was sacred to the goddess Cybele and also to Rhea.
On this date in ancient Rome, the goddess Minerva was honoured with an annual festival. Minerva (the Roman counterpart of the Greek Athena) is a goddess of battle and also of the arts and wisdom.
In ancient Greece, an annual seaside festival (the Poseidea) was celebrated annually on this date to honour the sea god Poseidon, consort of the Mother Goddess.
This day is sacred to the Pagan wisdom goddesses Athena, Kista, Maat, Minerva, the Shekinah, and Sophia.
December 20 or 21 or 22 (Southern Hemisphere Summer Solstice)
Today is the Lesser Sabbat of Litha in the Southern Hemisphere (the Lesser Sabbat of Yule in the Northern Hemisphere).
In early times, a Pagan religious ceremony called the Laurentina was held in Rome each year on this date. It celebrated the recovery of light from the darkness of the Winter Solstice, and was dedicated to the goddess Acca Laurentia or Lara (the mother of the Lares).
December 24 (Christmas Eve)
According to Finnish folklore, the ghosts of departed loved ones return home each year on this night. It is a Christmas Eve tradition in Finland and in many other parts of Europe for families to light white candles on the graves of their ancestors.
December 25 (Christmas Day)
Birthday of the Invincible Sun (Dies Natalis Invicti Solis). Before being Christianised as the Mass of Christ (Christmas), a festival honouring the god of the Sun was celebrated on this day in ancient Rome. It was made a public holiday by the Emperor Aurelian in the year A.D. 272 and consisted of the lighting of sacred bonfires.
On Christmas Day, according to German folklore, a Yuletide Witch known as the Lutzelfrau flies through the sky on her broom, bringing mischief to mortals who fail to honour her with small presents.
December 31 (New Year's Eve)
The modern custom of ringing bells and blowing horns to usher in the new year at midnight is actually derived from the old Pagan custom of noisemaking to scare away the evils of the old year.
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