SMITH COLUMN: The arrival of December

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, November 30, 2022

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With the arrival of December every year, we think of the holidays with Christmas being the centerpiece of our lives; but there is more to appreciate about what was once the tenth month of the year than the manger scene in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago.

December got its name from “decem,” which in Latin means ten.  As far back as 750 BC, December was the tenth month of a calendar which began in March. With the passing of time and expansion of the calendar to 12 months, owing to the decree of Julius Caesar, who added January and February up front, December stayed in place as the final month.  

Today nobody really cares that December’s position on the annual calendar is something of an anomaly when you discover the origin of the month’s name.

December is the most festive time of the year with all the giving and celebration. Our last month seems to sprint by with so much going on.  December is for bowl games and now playoff games — both collegiately and professionally.

We deck the halls with boughs of holly, we put up more than 33 million Christmas trees each year with the one at Rockefeller Center getting the most attention. 

\The history of that tree dates to 1931 during the Depression when Rockefeller Center was being built. Workers pooled enough money to buy the first tree. How times have changed!  Those with the fewest assets, nonetheless, honored the spirit of giving to start a tradition that has become a December focal point for America.

While scrooges remain in our society, think of the many organizations and individuals who underscore faith, hope and charity at Christmas. And extend a helping hand to those in need: Such as the churches, the Salvation Army, the food banks — among many others — by authoring a selfless effort and making somebody’s Christmas every year. Hallelujah to them.

Alfred Nobel died during the month of December but left an eternal impact on our world. In his will, this great man left all his wealth to be used for “awarding the members of society with outstanding achievements in the advancement of humanity.”  

“Extraordinary” as a seasoned Brit would say.

Many famous people were born in December, beginning with Nero who was born, without his fiddle, near Anzio in 54 AD. He was not the only despot born in our last month. Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong were born in December. Most of us abhor the thought of killing another person but Stalin and Mao were as accomplished at murder as anybody who has ever lived, having been responsible for murdering millions. Their box score is larger than Adolph Hitler’s if you can believe it.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was born in December.  His assassination on June 28, 1914, at Sarajevo, precipitated World War I.  Wonder what would have happened if he had been out of town that day?  Or if he had called in sick?  

Beethoven was born in December. So was Ty Cobb, Redd Fox, Tiger Woods, Pope Francis, Catherine of Aragon, Walt Disney, Frank Sinatra, Nostradamus, Louis Pasteur, and Alex Smith. You may not be familiar with that last name, but he is my grandson, a college sophomore on the other side of the country, but with deep and abiding passion for the Dawgs.  

I can remember past Decembers down on the farm when Christmas trees were not on sale. You had to hunt for one which was not easy in Middle Georgia.

There were no fir trees in existence and finding a short pine with any sort of Christmas tree shape was a major challenge. We seemed to find one to suffice, however, and brought it home to be decorated.

Life was simpler in those times. We knew how to make do. We shared with our family, friends and neighbors. We honored our existence with the greatest of commitment to the work ethic.

I am appreciative of so many things when the Christmas season comes around. The good food, the presents under the tree, the seasonal music and paintings that reflect ice skaters on a pond.   Someday, I want to experience a White Christmas with Bing Crosby singing the best-selling song in history in the background.