December’s end is a time of preparation and “finishing up,” closing out 2019, looking to 2020. The word “December” stems from the Latin “decem,” meaning “ten.” The ancient Roman calendar only had 10 months, beginning with March. December, the 10th month, was the last month of the year. 

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The months of September, October and November, also are derived from Latin roots meaning “seven,” “eight” and “nine,” respectively. When the 12-month Julian calendar was introduced in 45 B.C., the association of December with the end of the year stuck. Despite the numerical misalignment of a month named for 10 in Latin, December lived on as the 12th month. A quirk of history!

In the northern hemisphere, late December heralds the onset of winter as the Winter Solstice marks the exact day and time the sun on its journey south reaches its farthest point, directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn. Given the axial tilt of the earth, less sunlight falls on the northern reaches of our planet, hence the shortest day of the year occurs on the Winter Solstice, this year Dec. 21, the official start of winter.

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The days preceding Hanukkah and Christmas, December’s two great religious celebrations, are marked by frantic activity. It wasn’t that long ago, before the advent of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, gift shopping, helicopter parenting and chauffeuring duty, year-end work demands and travel, and the invention of the electric light bulb, the onset of the darker and colder winter season was a time of relaxation, slowing down to be with loved ones around a blazing hearth, sharing food stored away following the fall harvest. Many of the secular trappings of Christmas, including a festooned evergreen tree, stem from earlier traditions. Some aspects of those slower and more relaxed times, albeit aided by modern comforts, are worth retaining. We should relish gatherings of family, loved ones, friends and colleagues around a warm and comforting fire without a guilt trip because we didn’t buy carbon offsets.

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Personally, I believe God gave us reflective times like Hanukkah and Christmas, and all celebrations germane to whatever religious or spiritual path one follows throughout the year, to help us focus on the real purpose for which we are on earth to begin with. Sure, we have work demands, financial obligations, deadlines, our year-end checklist. But every ending heralds a new beginning, as December fades into January and a new year. In the South we are blessed with some sunny and relatively warm days, even in the depths of winter. Take time to get outside, turn your face to the sun that’s lower in the sky, feel the warmth, and say a prayer of thanks to the Creator for the gift of light, for illumination of not only your world, but of your soul and psyche

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Each day after Dec. 21, as the sun marches north in a journey ever higher in the sky, until the Summer Solstice, we gain a bit more daylight every day. We often take seasonal routines for granted, but the creative miracle of the positioning of our planet relative to the sun and how the seasons work, is an immense contemplation that’s humbling when we ponder the power and creative design behind it all.

About December which has been rushing by in a blur of activity, Dr. Seuss once asked, “How did it get so late so soon?” Not to worry, very shortly you’ll be on the other side of the yearly curve, asking, “January, 2020? How’d it get to be so soon so soon?” Have a blessed Hanukkah and Christmas. January “to-do’s” will come soon enough.

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Kwanzaa begins Dec. 26, a week-long celebration honoring African-American culture  featuring gift-giving and feasting, also signs of appreciation and thanksgiving. From the start of Hanukkah at sundown on Dec. 22, through the celebration of the birth of Christ on Dec. 25, on to Kwanzaa and New Year’s eve, it’s a time of reflection, of giving thanks, of renewed purpose. Enjoy! 

Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-3553;  Securities & advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of  SFA, otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He’s a Gallup Certified Clifton Strengths Coach and Certified Exit Planning Advisor.

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