Winter officially begins with the winter solstice, after a record warm November. December has average high temperatures in the mid-30°s F and low of about 20°F. Single digit or sub zero temperatures that may occur will seem bitterly cold compared to over 50°F to 70s°F in November. Whether warm or cold, the sun sets early in November, prior to 5 P.M.
External Christmas lights will brighten the dark afternoons and evenings However, these lights and the usual Christmas music on the radio may be the only really cheerful aspect of the season for many.
Holidays and Observances in December
December 6 – St. Nicholas’ Day; Second Sunday of Advent
December 7 – Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
December 10 – Chanakah / Hanukkah begins at sundown; Human Rights Day and Human Refugee Day
December 15 – Bill of Rights Day
December 17 – Wright Brothers’ 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 Kwanzaas
December 31 – New Year’s Eve
The holiday season with its public and often boisterous celebrations from Thanksgiving to the New Year will be low key and bleak this year. It is perhaps the darkest Christmas in the living memory of most, since Pearl Harbor ushered us into World War II just prior to Christmas in 1941. Not since the depths of the Great Depression and the dark days of WW II have we had such a winter of discontent.
Most of the usual concerts, theatrical productions, large religious services, work related parties and other public celebrations have been or likely will be canceled. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed “normal daily life” in many ways. Some are obvious: wearing a mask, social distancing in public, with bars, restaurants, cafes and theaters/concerts closed or very restricted.
For some, this limiting of “public” celebration is a “temporary inconvenience,” that has become more long term. However, many “non-essential” workers in bars, restaurants, cafes, along with musicians and others working in the arts and service workers for hotels, tourist attractions and the hospitality or tourism industries have lost their jobs. To add insult to injury, many have lost their health insurance as well during the time of the worst pandemic in a century.
For (mostly) professional high tech jobs involved with health care, finance, governmental services, education, and various information technologies of radio, television, internet or print media, the shift has been to working at home. Many other service workers remain employed, but at increased risk, often required to work long hours and off shift. Many are low paid jobs with a great risk serving the public in grocery stores, nursing homes, public transit, police/fire/medical first responders, meat processing plants, pharmacies, and warehouses.
This social changes are compounded by the closing of many schools. The difficulties finding day care is difficult in the best of times. Parents from all three of the above groups have to deal with home teaching and child care in different but equally difficult ways.
These economic concerns are but part of the economic and health care crisis. The systemic economic and health care realities of society strongly affect what has become a health care disaster. These systemic causes became worse when combined with incompetent policies made not based on the scientific realities of a “public health crisis” but on misleading and conflicting information based largely on politics.
The same President who ignores science is now pushing to retain power in ways that are immoral, dangerous, perhaps illegal and likely unconstitutional. This all detracts from governance and addressing the pandemic in meaningful ways. His actions are reprehensible and very dangerous on both constitutional grounds and for public health and economic concerns.
The governmental concern should now definitely be on a peaceful transition of power, including close cooperation on the plans for distribution and actual vaccination of millions, if not billions of people around the world during the first half of 2021.
As the holidays pass and the New Year comes, we can at least hope for a fair if not totally peaceful transition of power to a President who will take the pandemic seriously and support science when formulating policy.
In the Night Skies
The Geminid Meteor Shower occurs December 13-14 with up to 75 meteors visible per hour, originating from the Northeast. If skies are clear, the visibility should be quite good this year all night as the nearly Waning Crescent Moon sets at 3:42 P.M. will not interfere with observations.
An important conjunction that occurs every twenty years happens this month with Jupiter and Saturn appearing very close together. They are in conjunction with the Waxing Crescent Moon on December 16th-17th. On the December 20th -22nd, the two gas giants appear quite close together low in the southwestern sky. At their closest on the winter solstice of December 21 they should be very easily visible in one telescope field, though easily visible with the naked eye.
Rising and Setting Times of Sun, Moon and Visible Planets on the Solstice, December 21, 2019
Sunrise 7:20 A.M. Sunset 4:25 P.M.
Waxing Gibbous Moonrise 2:10 a.m., East. Moonset 1:41 p.m. West.
Mercury Rises 6:48 A.M. Southeast.
Venus Rises 5:05 A.M., East Sets 6:56 p.m. Southwest .
Mars Sets 2:34 A.M. West.
Jupiter Sets 7:30 P.M., Southwest.
Saturn Sets 6:03 Southwest.
December 7 Last Quarter Moon Rises 11:43 A.M., East Sets 12:41 P.M., West
December 14 New Moon Rises 7:21 A.M., Southeast Sets 4:30 P.M., Southwest
December 21 First Quarter Moon Rises 12:19 P.M., East Sets 12:03 A.M., West, 22nd
December 29 Full Cold Moon Rises 4:08 P.M., Northeast Sets: 7:12 A.M., Northwest