Since at least 1909, a superstition has lived in North American and the United Kingdom that if a person says or repeats the word “rabbit” upon waking up on the first day of the month, good luck will follow for the remainder of that month.
Elements of the tradition exist in the United Kingdom, New England, and even in various First Nation cultures.
While I’m not necessarily endorsing the superstition, it provides a way to look in depth at each month of the year, from history and observances to miscellaneous trivia. The topic this month is December.
December is the twelfth and final month of the year, but it used to be the tenth in the old calendar of Romulus. That’s why it has the Latin decem (meaning “ten”) in its name.
Roman observances for December included one of the four Agonalia, particularly in honor of Sol Indiges, on December 11th. This was the same day as Septimontium. Dies natalis (“birthday”) was held at the temple of Tellus on December 13th, Consualia was held on December 15th, Saturnalia was held from December 17th to 23rd, Opiconsivia was held on December 19th, Divalia was held on December 21st, Larentalia was held on December 23rd, and the dies natalis of Sol Invictus was held on December 25th. As usual, these dates do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.
Anglo-Saxons also referred to December and January as Ġēolamonaþ or Ȝēolamōnaþ, translated to “Yule month”. The Anglo-Saxon scholar Bede explained in his treatise De temporum ratione (The Reckoning of Time) that the entire winter solstice period was known as Ġēola. December later became known as Ǣrra-ġēolamōnaþ and January became known as Æfterra-ġēolamōnaþ, translated as The Preceding Yule and The Following, respectively.
Yule was the festival historically celebrated by the Germanic people, which was connected to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht. These pagan celebrations were later assimilated by the Christians, transforming the period into Christmastide. Some present-day Christmas customs and traditions such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others are connected to the pagan traditions. Yule is still celebrated in various forms in Nordic countries, Estonia, and Finland, as well as through modern neopagan movements.
December is the Month of the Advent of Christ in the Catholic Church. It also includes National Egg Nog Month, National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, National Fruit Cake Month, and National Pear Month. The international stage adds No Gender December, a campaign to educate the public about gender neutrality.
On the astronomical front, December meteor showers include the Andromedids (September 25 to December 6, with a peak around November 9th), the Canis-Minorids (spanning December 4 to December 15, with a peak around December 10th or 11th), the Coma Berenicids (between December 12 and December 23, with a peak around December 16th), the Delta Cancrids (December 14 to February 14, with a main shower from January 1-24 and a peak on January 17th), the Geminids (December 13-14), the Monocerotids (typically December 7-20, with a peak on December 9th), the Phoenicids (spanning November 29 to December 9, and peaking around December 5th), the Quadrantids (which is usually a January shower, but can start in December), the Sigma Hydrids (December 4-15), and the Ursids (December 17-26, with a peaking around December 22nd).
December also contains the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the day with the fewest daylight hours, and the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, the day with the most daylight hours. Both of these, of course, exclude the polar regions.
- December’s birthstones are turquoise (wisdom, tranquility, protection, good fortune, and hope), zircon (wisdom, success, honor and wealth), and tanzanite (wisdom, truth, and dignity).
- The western zodiac signs of December are Sagittarius (until December 21st) and Capricorn (December 22nd onwards).
- The month’s birth flower is the narcissus.
Rabbit Rabbit is a project designed to look at each month of the year with respect to history, observances, and more.
For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.