December: The darkest, brightest month

As someone who lives near a city famously associated with the phrase “frozen tundra,” I must confess that I am not a fan of winter, and cold December brings the beginning of winter, so it might seem like a hard sell.

Among other things, however, December is the month when my parents were married, so deep into World War II that my dad’s military rank was part of their wedding announcement, and 11 days later was my mom’s 21st birthday. So the month has my roots going for it.

And then there’s the joyful season of giving that reaches its zenith days after the winter solstice, and the month ends with a season of hope and new beginnings and resolutions to create something better out of all this.

And so, on balance, I tend to think of December more as the time of lingering autumn than as the arrival of unwelcome winter. Just don’t get me started on January or February, just yet. 

December is when we roll out a certain complement of songs that aren’t sung during the other 11 months, songs of joy to the world, and the innocence of a newborn baby, and peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men, and why aren’t those themes worth singing about all year long?

We tell the stories again — not just the story of the baby in the manger, but the story of a miser learning how to give, of a practical little girl discovering the power of believing in a magical jolly old elf, of a sad man discovering that he had been living a wonderful life all along, of a little boy with a sweet mom and a crusty but kind-hearted dad who wins a major award. Again, they are stories worth telling all year long.

December is the end of the cycle we measure by calendar and the month that brings the darkest day of the year, the day with the fewest hours of daylight, but then our singing of songs and telling of stories reaches its climax, and we celebrate hope, in peace and with love.

And as the month ends, the days start growing longer again, a few minutes at a time. Even though we know it will get colder, we also know it will get brighter. We set our sights on a new year with a spirit of new resolve and a fresh slate. December is the coda of another magnificent symphony, and even if it wasn’t the sweetest music we ever heard, the first notes of a new overture are waiting at the end of that final night.

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