Our experiment worked. A surprisingly large number of visitors came to the Notebook to shop last Friday and Saturday. Opening for at least part of the holiday season might have to become a new tradition. If you're around this Saturday between 10 and 5, stop in.
Now that we've reached December and the days are getting colder and the hours of sunlight fewer (the sun here is already setting before 4 p.m.), it's worth noting that the Romans used to leave about 60 days of winter off their calendar. A tempting idea, eh? The early Roman calendar consisted of only 10 months. That's why our 12th month has a name that means "tenth" (it's derived from the Latin decem, or ten). The lengths of months were linked to cycles of nature and agriculture, and December seems to have been 29 or 30 days rather than 31.
As for the month's biggest holiday, that too has roots in the cycles of nature. To quote the website Christianity Today, discussing the debate among ancient Christian scholars as to when (and whether) a birthday festival ought to be held for Jesus (whose birth date was unknown): "The eventual choice of December 25, made perhaps as early as 273, reflects a convergence of Origen's concern about pagan gods and the church's identification of God's son with the celestial sun. December 25 already hosted two other related festivals: natalis solis invicti (the Roman "birth of the unconquered sun"), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian "Sun of Righteousness" whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to the [Christian church's] deity, church leaders decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new festival."
What about New Year's Eve, if December 31 didn't even exist? Early Romans and some other ancient civilizations would have celebrated that around the time of the spring solstice, in March, when the new crops were planted and the new year officially began. Thus it appears that even before there was college basketball, there was March Madness.