Nicola here, celebrating the month of December. I have mixed feelings about this month; on the one hand I find it hard to get out bed on these cold, dark mornings and would quite like to hibernate, but on the other hand I love the sense of anticipation about the holiday season!
December was the tenth month of the Roman calendar which is why its name is derived from the Roman "decem" for ten rather than "duodecim" for twelve. The Anglo Saxons called the month "wintermonath" before their conversion to Christianity and "Heligbmonath," holy month, afterwards. Other ancient names refer to the winter festival of yule.
The traditional December weather here in the UK is usually fairly mild and damp, bearing little resemblance to the "white Christmas" snowy scenes on the Christmas cards. However in recent years there has been more chance of cold, frosty days in December and we are promised frost and possibly snow from the end of this week. Elsewhere in the world, of course, Christmas can be hot and sunny. (Sighs with envy).
One UK Christmas tradition that is in decline is pantomime. When I was a child, pantomime was hugely popular over the Christmas and New Year season. Mostly based on comic dramatised versions of children's fairy tales or folk tales such as Cinderella and Aladdin, pantomime involved songs, dancing, slapstick humour and cross-dressing. Pantomime has a fascinating history, growing out of the 16th century "commedia dell'arte" or masked theatre in Italy. It was over 200 years ago that the story of Aladdin was first performed at Drury Lane Theatre in London - our Regency audiences would have been familiar with it! In fact the Georgian fascination with the stories of Arabian Nights led to a fashion for oriental furniture and design and also to Lord Shaftesbury denouncing the stories for "over-exciting the female imagination!"
So what does my over-excited female imagination enjoy about December? So many things! Decorating
the house for Christmas (this year we aren't having a tree because Angus the puppy is still too young and would tempted to eat the baubles. But we are having lots of other decorations.) Long walks in the frosty countryside. Open fires. Getting together with family and friends over the holiday season. Carol singing on the village green. Making mince pies. Opening my advent calendar, which is a tradition I've kept since I was a child. And a visit to the Christmas fair at one of the National Trust houses near us.
Over to you - what do you like best about the month of December? Do you have any special treats and rituals you particularly look forward to? I'm offering a collection of my Christmas novellas to one commenter between now and midnight Tuesday. Happy December!