An initial cold snap with wind and/or snow is termed by the oldsters the “young winter.” Not until cold and snow have come to stay has the “old winter” set in.
-August Derleth, Countryman’s Journal
Lunar phase and lore
The Deer Mating Moon enters its last quarter at 10:32 a.m. on Dec. 6. Rising in the evening and setting in the morning, this moon moves overhead, its most favorable position for fishing and for scouting for game, before dawn.
The approach of cold waves due on Dec. 3 and 8 is expected to lower the barometric pressure and to enhance the likelihood of human, animal and finny activity. Dropping barometric pressure may increase the likelihood of joint pain and depression.
The moon’s position in Scorpio on Dec. 9-10 favors seeding of bedding plants for next spring.
Find Venus in shining as the morning star in Libra as early winter opens throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Mars, still in Sagittarius, rises after sunup and sinks below the western horizon by suppertime. Jupiter, continuing its residency in Taurus, lies in the far west before sunrise. Saturn in Virgo precedes Venus before dawn.
Directly above you at 10 p.m., Perseus stands below the North Star. In front of Perseus, to the west, find Andromeda, and then the Great Square. East of Perseus is Capella, the brightest star of the Milky Way (except for Sirius in the far southeast).
By midnight, the Pleiades and Taurus will be almost directly overhead, Orion fully visible behind them. Regulus, the brightest star of spring, will be just starting to rise along the eastern tree line.
The rate at which the night lengthens slows radically throughout December, dropping from 10 minutes per seven days down to about a minute per seven days. Sunset reaches its earliest time of the year by the weekend, and remains at that setting time until the end of December’s second week.
Now the sun is so low in the sky at noon that only an astronomer (or someone who keeps track of the depth of shadows on their wall) could tell the difference between its position today and at winter solstice.
Calendar of holidays & special occasions
Dec. 8-16: Hanukkah (Jewish Festival of Lights) – This festival is eight days long and offers many possibilities to serve this market.
Dec. 25: Christmas – Milk-fed kids and lambs below 20 pounds are favored for this market. Plan to breed this spring for autumn animals to meet December demands.
Severe weather is most likely to occur during the following periods: Dec. 1-3 and 24-26 and Dec. 31-Jan. 1. It is probable the new moon on Dec. 13 will intensify the arrival of early winter. Full moon on Dec. 28 will bring stronger-than-average storms to the United States as deep winter approaches, and New Year’s Eve is expected to be colder than usual.
In most states, average high temperatures fluctuate only about 2-3 degrees between Dec. 21 and the approach of early spring in the third week of February.
The typical December temperature, the average of the high of 39 and the low of 26, at median elevations along the 40th Parallel is 32 degrees. Using the following chart based on weather statistics from around the country, you can calculate the approximate temperatures in other locations.
For example, with the average of the 40th Parallel as the base of “32,” you can estimate normal temperatures in Minneapolis by subtracting 13 degrees from the 32 degrees (32-13=19). Or add 10 degrees to find out the likely conditions in Seattle during the month.
Fairbanks, Alaska: -39
Des Moines: -6
Portland, Maine: -5
Average along 40th parallel: 32
New York City: +3
St. Louis: +3
Washington, D.C.: +5
New Orleans: +24
Peak activity for livestock, fish, game & dieters
Fish, game, livestock and people tend to feed more and are more active as the barometer is falling 1-3 days before the weather systems that arrive near the following dates, when cold fronts normally cross the Mississippi River: Dec. 2, 7, 13, 17, 23 and 30.
Seek food and offer food at midday when the moon is new, in the afternoon and evening when the moon is in its first quarter, at night when the moon is full and in its third quarter and in the morning when the moon is in its fourth quarter.
Most Decembers bring one or two days above 60 and four days in the 50s – those temperatures frequently recorded before the arrival of early winter. The remaining afternoons reach into the 40s seven times, into the 30s 13 times, finding the 20s three times and remaining in the teens or lower on three occasions.
A morning or two below zero is experienced three years in 10. The 16-week snow period begins for Ohio and Indiana within the next two weeks.
Zeitgebers for this week include the final loss of foliage on beeches and pears. Sometimes oaks are the holdouts, sometimes forsythia or a hardy honeysuckle. Sometimes sweet gums and poplars keep a few leaves this late in the year; sometimes Osage, mock orange and lilacs outlast all the other trees and shrubs.