By Roger Chambers
Holidays and Observances
December 1 First Sunday of Advent
December 6 St. Nicholas’ Day
December 7 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
December 10 Human Rights Day and Human Refugee Day
December 15 Bill of Rights Day
December 17 Wright Brothers’ Day; Pan American Day
December 21 Forefathers Day and Winter Solstice
December 24 Christmas Eve
December 25 Christmas Day
December 26 Boxing Day in Canada; First Day of Kwanza
December 31 New Year’s Eve
Beginning on Thanksgiving, extending to New Year’s Day is the holiday season which includes the entire month of December. Christmas, St. Nicholas Day, Hannukkah and Kwanzaa are all religious holidays during the month. Family gatherings and large parties are still under stress and uncertainty related to covid. Most notable is the polarizing issues of vaccine and mask mandates, at work, on transit, in schools and at public gatherings. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction in the very near future.
December also has several proclamation days related to our history and human and political rights. The best known and most commonly observed proclamation day is Pearl Harbor Day on December 7. The Japanese attack on Hawaii 80 years ago led directly to American involvement in World War II. The few survivors of that attack that remain alive are in their 90s. There are occasional gatherings at memorials or other observances to commemorate that day.
Days in December are also dedicated to human rights, refugees, and the Bill of Rights. Refugees are certainly important locally local with the settlement in recent years of many hundreds from Bosnia, Burma, Somalia, soon to be joined by Afghanis.
Historically, the first flight by the Wright brothers in North Carolina occurred in 1903. Unlike Pearl Harbor, none alive today can remember life before the airplane. On the same date of December 17, though lesser known, is Pan American Aviation Day. This focuses on support of aviation leading to improved communication and cultural understanding among nations of the Western Hemisphere.
After an incredibly warm autumn, the expected cold of winter will seem perhaps even more brutal. There was no frost in my Utica yard in October, while the long term average first frost is early October. Winter formally begins with the winter solstice of December 21, It is not until late January that sunset occurs after 5 p.m. But the many Christmas lights, both public on squares and downtown, commercial, or private brighten the evenings during this month when winter really begins.
During December there are often many special church services or concerts. There are also commercial presentations, with The Nutcracker returning to the Stanley Theater on December 10-12. There is at least on special celebration of the season in most villages and cities in the region during the month. At Fort Klock in St. Johnsville, NY there is usually on the first Sunday of December a St. Nicholas Day celebration, with hot apple cider, gingerbread and cookies, along with 18th century music with a small ensemble. It is uncertain at this writing if this will proceed or not.
Merry Christmas to all and enjoy the holiday season.
In the Night Skies
New Comet Leonard – C/2021 A1 was discovered in January 2021. At present between the orbits of Mars and Earth will reach its closets point to the sun (perihelion) about January 3, 2022, it’s tail being longer the closer to the Sun it is. On December 12 it passes about 22 million miles from Earth, and may well seen with binoculars, and perhaps visible to the naked eye in early December.
Planetary activity this month includes Venus is at its brightest high enough to be seen well after sunset. It is close the crescent Moon on the 6th, along with a lineup from upper left to lower right, Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon and Venus. This is visible through the 8th, with the Moon shifting position. Mercury is also visible this month, from the 24th to the 31st at a fairly bright -0.5 magnitude at first below and then to the left of Venus.
The Full Cold Moon is on December 18. The actual winter solstice during this season of long nights and short days is December 21 at 10:59 a.m. EST.
Rising and Setting Times of Sun, Moon and Visible Planets on the Solstice, December 21, 2021:
Sunrise 7:29 a.m. Sunset 4:29 p.m.
Moonrise, waning gibbous 6:35 P.m. a.m. northeast
Moonset 9:40 A.m. northwest
Mercury sets 5:15 p.m. southwest
Venus sets 6:33 p.m., southwest
Mars rises 5:37 a.m. southeast
Jupiter sets 9:16 p.m. west
Saturn sets 7:47 p.m. southwest
December 4 rises 7:42 a.m.southeast, sets 4:43 p.m., southwest
First Quarter Moon December 10 rises 12:36 p.m., east, sets 11:44 p.m., west
Full Cold Moon December 18 rises 3:58 p.m. northeast, sets 7:06 a.m.
Last Quarter MoonDecember 26, rises yesterday, sets 12:03 p.m., west.