Happenings on the December calendar

As the season of unlimited merriment and endless festivity nears, let’s have a quick look at this new month of December. We have to hurry because there’s Christmas shopping to do, holiday plans to make, and not much time to do everything on that to-do list.

• Monday, December 7 — The first day of Hanukkah. While it’s Merry Christmas for some, for others it’s  Happy Hanukkah. The origins are religious in both cases.

The Christian season, celebrating the birth of Christ, generally coincides with the Hanukkah season, which is the Jewish Feast of Lights or Feast of Dedication. In fact, Hanukkah means dedication. The festival lasts for eight days, during which gifts are exchanged and candles are lit nightly until by the last evening when eight lighted candles stand together. 

This festival dates back to 165 B.C. when the Jews defeated the Seleucid Empire  and held festivities in the Temple of Jerusalem and re-dedicated it to God.  They found in the temple only a small amount of oil to light their holy lamps, but miraculously the oil lasted for eight days. And, that’s the basis for the Festival of Hanukkah.

• December 8, 1963 — Frank Sinatra Jr.  was kidnapped at gunpoint from Harrah’s Casino in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. He was released after a day or so when a  $240,000 ransom was paid. The three kidnappers were eventually caught and convicted.

An interesting sidebar to this tale is that 35 years later, in 1998, Sinatra Jr. sued the kidnappers after they sold their story to Columbia Pictures for $1 million.

• December 9, 1956 — This ranks up there with all the other most embarrassing sports moments. For the first time, the All Star Bowling Tournament was being telecast nationwide in the U.S.  One of the world’s best bowlers of the time, Dick Weber, had the honour of throwing the first ball. The huge TV audience watched intently as he excitedly rolled the first ball down the alley and into the gutter.

• December 14, 1977 — The beginning of the disco craze. Depending on your point of view about disco, you can blame it on or give credit to the movie  Saturday Night Fever which premiered on this day in New York City.  The movie starred John Travolta as a disco dancer, and was greatly responsible for the disco craze really catching fire.

In fact, the movie soundtrack, featuring hits by the Bee Gees, Kool & the gang and  K.C. and the Sunshine Band, would become the best-selling LP of all time. It was finally eclipsed by Michael Jackson’s Thriller in 1984.

• December 21 — The first day of a weather phenomenon we are all vaguely familiar with — something called winter.

The Sun is directly overhead at high-noon on the Winter Solstice at the latitude called the Tropic of Capricorn. The Winter Solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight during the whole year. In the Northern Hemisphere, it occurs around December 21 or 22. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is around June 20 or 21.

• December 29, 1952 — A kidney stone was removed from an 80-year-old woman in London, England.  Big deal, you say.  Well, it was just that because the stone weighed  almost 14 pounds. Giving it the dubious distinction of being the largest kidney stone ever recorded in medical history.

• December 31 — New Year’s Eve. Here’s a little New Year’s whimsy to put you in the seasonal mood:

— Procrastination is when you see the second hand approaching the hour of midnight on New Year’s Eve and you start wondering about who to invite to the party.

— Harry and Charlie are sharing a beaker of wine at a New Year’s party and Charlie muses: “You know, things are so bad these days that I hear that the 2016 calendars will only have pages up to March.”