December is the month of the winter solstice which, in the Northern Hemisphere, occurred at 5:44 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, December 21st.
Among the many varied customs linked with this special season for thousands of years, the exchanging of gifts is almost universal. Mother Nature herself offers the sky observer in north temperate latitudes two gifts in particular — long nights and a sky more transparent than usual.
One reason for the clarity of a winter’s night is that cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air can. On many nights during the summer, the warm moisture-laden atmosphere causes the sky to appear hazier. By day it is a milky, washed-out blue, which in winter becomes a richer, deeper and darker shade of blue. For us in northern climes, this only adds more luster to that part of the sky containing the beautiful wintertime stars and constellations such as Orion, the Mighty Hunter, Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, and the Seven Sisters star cluster, popularly known as the Pleiades.
Indeed, it is seemingly Nature’s holiday decoration to commemorate the winter solstice and enlighten the long cold nights of winter.