an artist's rendition of the world's first swimming dinosaur. A slender animal with a long neck and open mouth is shown diving underwater toward fish
Yusik Choi

Dinosaurs that are not classified as birds walked the Earth during the Mesozoic Era, which occurred between 245 and 66 million years ago. And yet, believe it or not, researchers have never found evidence that any non-avian prehistoric reptiles ever swam. There was one exception: Spinosaurus — a humongous, fearsome beast that was able to adapt to water and even submerge itself. Still, it could not dive deep enough to be labeled as aquatic.

But now, all that has changed. Enter the Natovenator polydontus, a new species that scientists are referring to as the world’s first known swimming dinosaur, according to a study published in Communications Biology. Its name translates to the “many-toothed swimming hunter,” per Smithsonian Magazine. That’s because this small creature, which only stretched about a foot long, had a long jaw full of tiny teeth. It’s even a cousin of the Velociraptor, despite its miniscule size and slender appearance.

“We realized that this was something special, because it was beautifully preserved with a nice skull and an extremely long neck,” Seoul National University paleontologist and study co-author Sungjin Lee told Smithsonian. The fossil was found in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert at a site called Hermiin Tsav, where numerous other dinosaur bones have been found throughout history. After further analysis, Lee noted that Natovenator resembled a cormorant, a type of bird known for its expert diving.

Yusik Choie

While more evidence is still needed, researchers believe the anatomy of this dinosaur suggests it was likely aquatic. For example, the lengthy jaws and little teeth might have been efficient for snagging fish. Natovenator’s ribs are also swept back like that of penguins, which could have allowed it to soar through the water. No other dinosaurs have been found to have this skeletal structure, Smithsonian reports.

Although Natovenator — which belongs to a group of dinosaurs called theropods that also includes the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex — may be the world’s first swimming dinosaur, it probably won’t be the last.  

“I believe there will be more discoveries of fascinating, bizarre theropods in the future,” the study’s lead author, Yuong-Nam Lee, told Reuters. “More than 30 different lineages of tetrapods (terrestrial vertebrates) have independently invaded water ecosystems,” he added. “Why not dinosaurs?”

an image of orange flowers in a field in front of a small wooden barn painted with brightly colored images
Southside Blooms

Update: Nice News hosted a fundraiser for Chicago Eco House during the month of February 2023. Thanks to the help of our generous readers, we surpassed our goal!

On the South Side of Chicago, a “farm-to-vase” florist is transforming vacant lots into sustainable flower farms and hiring at-risk youth to help beautify the city one bouquet at a time. 

The nonprofit Chicago Eco House, founded by Quilen Blackwell and his wife Hannah Bonham Blackwell in 2014, is on a mission to alleviate poverty using sustainability — and its Southside Blooms program is doing just that. Eco-friendly Southside Blooms provides “unique and fashion-forward arrangements, while maintaining an uncompromising dedication to both the environment and our surrounding communities,” its website explains. 

Flowers are sourced from farms with a commitment to renewable energy and the utilization of rainwater irrigation systems; organic material is composted onsite; and the company uses recyclable, reusable, and biodegradable materials wherever possible. 

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All profits go directly toward the mission of combating poverty in Chicago’s communities through sustainable practices, including providing job training for at-risk youth in both the South Side as well as Gary, Indiana. These young gardeners are employed to transform unused and unsightly corners of the city into lots of life and color: They create bouquets for sale, work in flower shops, tend to plant beds, and even make and package honey, the Chicago Defender reported.

Tending to 10 acres spanning four flower farms across the Windy city, the florists’ reach also extends out of state, with a partnership in Gary and a pilot program in Detroit, Michigan. But they aren’t stopping there — Southside Blooms is aiming to plant similar beautification projects across the country, Quilen told People magazine.

“We really want to be able to grow as much as possible and as fast as possible, so that inner cities of America can change,” he said. “This is about eliminating the ghetto as we know it.”

After Chicago Eco House was established nearly a decade ago, it started an after-school program for children from kindergarten up through eighth grade, per People. The idea to purchase vacant lots and employ youth to beautify them came in 2017, and two years later Southside Blooms was born. 

 “We wanted to really do something that not only help the youth, but that would actually physically transform the environment that they’re living in, because it can’t be separated,”  Quilen told the outlet. 

Hannah, who serves as the flower shop’s head florist, said: “We are teaching a really great skill. We are giving them something of beauty to work with.”

Southside Blooms currently has 15 employees, ages 15 to 26.

Among them is Armani Hopkins, 15, who has worked for Southside Blooms for a year. “I feel like sometimes, especially on the South Side, there is so much darkness. It’s important to have something positive,” she told People. “I feel like giving somebody a bouquet can really light up somebody’s day.”

She added: “It feels nice that I can start, even just by a little bit, having some type of positive impact. I feel like I can do a good thing with this job.”

Shot of a happy young couple exchanging Christmas gifts at home
mapodile / iStock

People around the world give gifts for various purposes and occasions, from solidifying business relations to celebrating holidays. More than just a fun tradition, anthropologists and psychologists have found gift giving is an important part of societal integration and interpersonal connection, and giving can greatly benefit individuals’ well-being. But finding the perfect present isn’t always easy. Despite all the positives, gift giving can be fraught for givers and receivers alike. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Science shows the art of great gift giving comes down to a few principles.

For one, surprises are great for parties and magic tricks, but not so much in gift giving. A 2011 paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology shows the best gifts are those that people ask for. Researchers conducted five studies and found givers typically think recipients will perceive unsolicited gifts as more thoughtful and considerate and appreciate them just as much as gifts they explicitly requested. On the contrary, recipients would’ve preferred receiving what they had requested.

And while a big reveal is exciting, choosing an extravagant gift — like an expensive watch or trendy gadget — for its “wow” factor isn’t necessarily the best strategy. A bit of drama can be fun, but a 2016 study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science suggests most giftees prefer items that are more usable. Plus, research shows recipients aren’t that concerned with cost, and more expensive gifts aren’t automatically perceived as more valuable.

Erdark / iStock

“When givers give gifts, they’re trying to optimize on the moment they give the gift and see the smile on the recipient’s face right in that moment. But what recipients care about is how much value they’re going to derive from that over a longer time period,” Jeff Galak, an associate professor of marketing at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and one of the 2016’s study authors, told the BBC in 2019. 

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research reported similar findings, indicating recipients prefer utility over flash. Additionally, research shows that many people would prefer money or a gift card, even if they feel bad asking for it. Experiential gifts — such as concert tickets or travel vouchers — also top the list, per a 2016 study.

Even if a recipient doesn’t love a gift, though, the thought does count. Nicholas Epley, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, told the BBC recipients tend to appreciate the effort. Plus, selecting and giving a present can make the giver feel good, too.  

“When gift givers put a lot of thought into a gift, they feel closer to the recipient,” he said. “Even if the recipient isn’t so much affected by the thoughtfulness, the giver is.”

Winter Holidays Season Background
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Carols are playing on the radio and in stores, homes are decked out with colorful lights and displays, and vehicles can be spotted with green spruces or pines on their roofs — all signifiers that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the old Bing Crosby song goes

Christmas, observed annually on Dec. 25, is one of the most well-known end-of-year holidays, celebrated by billions of people around the globe. Both a religious and cultural celebration, it commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and is a day of gift giving. While it may be one of the most popular winter holidays at this time of year, though, it certainly isn’t the only one.     

Read on for an overview of several other festivities that take place during winter.

St. Nicholas Day
Dates: Dec. 5 or 6 (can vary by country)

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St. Nicholas Day, also known as feast day, celebrates St. Nicholas — the bishop of Myra in the 4th century who inspired present-day Santa Claus. Over time he came to be known as the patron saint of Russia and Greece, as well as a number of cities, while widely revered as the protector of sailors, children, and an assortment of other groups. Variations of his legacy spread throughout Europe, per In Holland, for instance, he came to be known as Sinterklaas; he’s said to have arrived there on horseback for his feast day, dressed in a bishop’s red robe and carrying a mitre, accompanied by his compatriot, Black Peter. Together, they are believed to have distributed sweets and presents to good children, or less desirable offerings — like the proverbial lump of coal — to the not-so-good children. 

Hanukkah (aka “The Festival of Lights”)
Date(s): From nightfall on Thursday, Dec. 7 to nightfall on Friday, Dec. 15; dates vary from year to year

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Most secular and Christian holidays in the U.S. are based on the Gregorian, or solar, calendar, according to Reader’s Digest, whereas Jewish holidays follow a lunisolar calendar — which tracks the Earth’s orbit around the sun — and factors in moon phases to mark the beginning and end of months. Solar calendars and lunisolar calendars don’t align perfectly; hence, while Hanukkah is always celebrated for eight consecutive days, the dates can change annually. 

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt of the second century B.C., when the Jews stood up to their oppressors, the Seleucids. According to the Talmud, during this rededication of the Temple, there was only enough untainted oil on hand to keep the temple’s lamp, the menorah, burning for one day, and yet the flames miraculously continued to burn for eight nights. Today’s menorahs hold eight candles — symbolizing the eight days that the Temple menorah burned — that flank the center shamash, considered a “helper” candle of sorts, which is lit first and then used to light the others. Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting the menorah each night, enjoying traditional foods like potato pancakes, playing dreidel, and exchanging gifts. 

St. Lucia’s Day
Date: Dec. 13 

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A largely Scandinavian celebration, this day marks the start of the Christmas season in Scandinavia. St. Lucia was a young Christian woman martyred for her faith. According to, she would take “food to persecuted Christians in hiding, wearing candles on her head to light her way so she could have both hands free” after delivering food to persecuted Christians. As described by Vogue Scandinavia, “the day is celebrated with a Lucia train (Luciatåg) procession in which a young girl elected to portray St. Lucia leads the way wearing a white gown, with a red sash and crown of candles. She is trailed by Lucia handmaidens (tärnor), star boys (stjärngossar) and gingerbread men (pepparkaksgubbar) who all carry candles.” December 13 used to mark the Winter Solstice according to the Julian calendar that was still in use when St. Lucia’s Day originated, so it continues to be celebrated on that day. 

Las Posadas
Dates: Dec. 16-24

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Las Posadas, a novena (nine days of prayer), is a religious festival celebrated in Mexico and Latin American countries, as well as across parts of the U.S. It symbolizes the journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, culminating in the birth of the baby Jesus in a stable. The festival often involves a procession through the streets of a town, reenacting the quest of Joseph and Mary for safe shelter. Typically, passages of the Bible are read, carols are sung, and a Mass is held after the procession. Piñatas in the shape of a star, symbolizing the one that guided the three wise men to the baby Jesus, are also popular in the festivities.

Winter Solstice
Dates: Dec. 21 at 10:27 p.m. ET (Northern Hemisphere)

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As noted by, there’s a common misconception that the winter solstice spans its full designated day, but in fact, it’s a precise moment on that date when a hemisphere is tilted as far away from the sun as possible. In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs annually on December 21 or 22.

A variety of cultures across the globe have celebrated the solstice as a meaningful and often spiritually significant passage between seasons. Check out’s article about eight ways that various parts of the world have been known to mark the occasion.

Boxing Day
Dates: Dec. 26

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Celebrated the day after Christmas, Boxing Day is widely observed in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries. The holiday originated in Britain, where servants in wealthy households were expected to serve their employers on Christmas Day. However, the servants were allowed to spend time with their families on the following day, according to, and were often sent home with “Christmas boxes” from their employers — filled with presents, holiday bonuses, and leftover food. Inspired by this tradition, because it would have been the cook’s day off back in the day, in modern times those celebrating Boxing Day will often enjoy their leftovers from their Christmas meals the day before. In Ireland, Boxing Day is also known as St. Stephen’s Day.

Dates: Dec. 26-Jan. 1

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Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, as a means of creating unity and support for African Americans in the wake of the Watts riots of 1965, explains. Karenga found inspiration in the traditions of various African “first fruit,” or harvest, celebrations. 

Kwanzaa is centered on seven essential principles, called the Nguzo Saba. One principle is celebrated on each day of the seven-day celebration, as outlined at The principles are: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). Customs include decorating with or assembling items that represent each of those principles, lighting candles each night, and exchanging gifts. 

Three Kings Day
Date: Jan. 6

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Three Kings Day is celebrated in most Latin American and Caribbean countries. The “three kings” in question are the three wise men who came bearing gifts when visiting baby Jesus. Some of the day’s celebratory customs include leaving grass or hay out for the kings in exchange for a present, per USA Today. In Mexico, a Rosca de Reyes, or large oval-shaped bread festooned with dried fruit, often concealing a plastic baby Jesus figurine inside, is a beloved symbol of the season. To many in the Latinx and Hispanic communities, Three Kings Day is revered as “second Christmas.”

Vector illustration showing orange head with brain and charts of a different brain waves: Alpha, beta, theta and delta waves.
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We all forget things and mix up details from time to time. Birthdays, capital cities, the name of that place where you had the best tacos ever just a few weeks ago, or perhaps one of the most commonplace causes of modern confusion: where in the heck you last left those car keys. But really, how normal is the act of misremembering? According to an article written by Robert Jacobs, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, for The Conversation, imperfect recall or guesstimation may very well be your brain doing its job to the best of its ability. 

Human memory has limited capacity, and according to Jacobs, some errors are inevitable, particularly when vague inputs and uncertain conditions and information are in play. Flawless perceptual and cognitive performance is an unrealistic expectation for humans, and with ambiguity, uncertainty, and deadlines thrown into the mix — seemingly constant aspects of modern life — Jacobs makes a compelling case for misremembering being normal and understandable.

Cognitive scientists generally acknowledge that the ideal cognitive strategy is to combine perception — things you observe and experience — with a general understanding of how our world typically works. But when we attempt to recall and think under pressure and deadline, and with a finite attention span, then, according to Jacobs, often a good enough solution is exactly that — good enough.

“Researchers have found that people tend to remember task-relevant details and to forget task-irrelevant details. In addition, people tend to remember the general gist of an item placed in memory, while forgetting its fine details. When this occurs, people tend to mentally ‘fill in’ the missing details with the most frequent or commonplace properties,” Jacobs wrote in his Conversation article. “In a sense, the use of commonplace properties when details are missing is a type of heuristic — it is a quick-and-dirty strategy that will often work well but sometimes fail.”

Not surprisingly, the myriad stresses, isolation, and limited social activity as a result of  the COVID-19 pandemic in its first few years also produced a noticeable decline in the cognitive function of some otherwise healthy adults, dementia specialist Joel Salinas from the NYU Grossman School of Medicine told The Washington Post. Salinas and other experts offer up several solid recommendations for optimizing your brain’s performance, and your overall well-being, such as exercise, good nutrition — including limiting alcohol consumption — and monitoring your health for underlying conditions that may impact cognitive function. 

Advances in science are another source of hope when it comes to improving memory. Case in point: a recent study conducted by neuroscientist Robert Reinhart and his colleagues at Boston University produced some promising results for improving memory via a non-invasive and drug-free technique in older adults. In the study, a treatment in which electrical currents delivered through electrodes on the scalp — otherwise known as transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) — was administered to 150 participants between ages 65 and 88 over the course of four consecutive days. Different currents delivered to different parts of the brain produced tangible improvements to both the working memories and long-term memories of the participants. Specifically, high-frequency stimulation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex improved long-term memory, while low-frequency stimulation of the inferior parietal lobe improved working memory — and the enhanced recall of participants remained noticeable a month later. Those who began the study with the lowest levels of cognitive function experienced the most significant improvements. 

According to the study’s co-author, Shrey Grover, future studies will focus on whether this technique can assist with other types of memory task, how long improved memory function can be maintained after the tACS treatment, and if the technique might offer hope in the treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.  

Many fellow neuroscientists are optimistic about the study’s implications. Simon Hanslmayr, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Glasgow, U.K., confirmed that the tACS protocol has provided compelling evidence of “consistent and quite strong improvements in memory.” Hanslmayr noted that delivering the tACS treatment for several days — versus a single session, which had been measured in previous studies — and utilizing older participants, who would be more likely to benefit from such treatment, may account for the particularly strong results. 

“We’re hoping that we can extend upon this work in meaningful ways,” said Grover, “and contribute more information about how the brain works.”

bright green living christmas trees in terracotta pots
mladn61 / iStock

For those who celebrate Christmas, the scent of pine is inextricably linked with the holiday season. And while artificial trees have surpassed live trees as the most popular Christmas tree of choice in the U.S., there are 25-30 million real Christmas trees sold in the U.S. annually, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. 

With the live Christmas tree option, however, there’s one major downside: disposing of the tree after the holidays have passed. And now, warmer temperatures are creating a new dilemma. The American Christmas Tree Association reports that drought conditions and extreme weather events are whittling down the supply of fresh live trees available to consumers this season.

Happily, though, a new holiday tradition has been steadily gaining traction over the past few years, throughout the U.S. and in a number of other countries, including Germany and across the U.K.: renting a living potted Christmas tree.

Interest in living Christmas tree rentals in the U.S. gained serious traction in 2012, per Better Homes & Gardens, when Scott Martin pitched the idea for his company, The Living Christmas Company, on the reality show Shark Tank. Martin’s inspiration began to take shape when he spent one Christmas vacation delivering Christmas trees for a local nursery. While Martin understandably enjoyed the “sheer magic and merriment created by the simple act of bringing a Christmas tree into the house,” according to the company’s website, he was equally disheartened to see those trees then abandoned curbside as soon as the holiday had passed. Thus, he founded his Southern California living rental tree service in 2008.

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The gist of the process for most Christmas tree rental companies is this: You’ll select your tree online, after which it’s transferred to a pot and delivered to your home. While the tree is in your care, you’ll be responsible for maintaining it, including watering it, feeding it, and keeping it healthy and happy. Once Christmas has passed, you then arrange to return it to the nursery, where it will be repotted and maintained until the next holiday season.

If you grow attached to your tree, many places will allow you to reserve and rent the same tree for several years to come, until it grows too large for in-home use. At that point in the tree’s life, many rental services will then transfer the tree to its “forever home” within the community or a nearby forest, depending on where you live. 

A quick internet search will quickly tell you which rental services may be operating in your area. And if you don’t live near a designated living Christmas tree rental service, be sure to check with your local tree farms and ask about any rental options they may consider offering.

Looking for another eco-friendly tree option? Take advantage of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s permit system, which allows you to find and cut your own Christmas tree, while doing your part to keep forests healthy.

Flossie, the world's oldest cat, is brown and black with small ears. She sits curled up with her eyes closed on a yellow blanket.
Cats Protection / Guinness World Records

The secret to a long life is good food and lots of naps. At least, it is for a British cat named Flossie, who — at the impressive age of 26 years and 316 days (as of November 10) — was named the world’s oldest cat by Guinness World Records. 

Flossie is in good health as she approaches her 27th birthday, and though she’s deaf and her eyesight has declined, her appetite remains strong. “She never turns her nose up at the chance of a good meal,” Flossie’s current owner Vicki Green told the records publisher in a news release. 

Cats Protection / Guinness World Records

In her nearly three decades of life, Flossie has experienced much happiness, but also several twists and turns, including outliving two owners. 

In December 1995, she and several other cats were living as strays on the streets of Merseyside, England, when she was adopted by a worker at a nearby hospital. She lived with that first owner for a decade, until the person’s death. Flossie then moved to the owner’s sister’s home, where she spent another 14 years. Sadly, that woman also passed away, so her son took over tending to Flossie. The cat was 24 years old by that time, and required special attention due to her advanced age. After nearly three years, her third owner made the difficult decision to entrust her care to a rescue called Cats Protection.

“We were flabbergasted when we saw that Flossie’s vet records showed her to be 27 years old,” said Naomi Rosling, a branch coordinator for the nonprofit. She added: “She’s the oldest cat I’ve ever met — around 120 in human years.” 

Though older cats are often passed over in favor of kittens at adoption events, Flossie wouldn’t be living out the rest of her days with Cats Protection. Green, an executive assistant who has experience caring for senior cats, soon welcomed the elderly kitty into her home. 

“I knew from the start that Flossie was a special cat, but I didn’t imagine I’d share my home with a world record holder,” Green told Guinness World Records. “She’s so affectionate and playful, especially sweet when you remember how old she is. I’m immensely proud that Cats Protection matched me with such an amazing cat.” 

Green understands the great joy that can be found in adopting older animals, and she hopes Flossie’s story will serve as inspiration for others to follow suit. Her last kitty companion, Honeybun, lived to 21 years. “I’ve always wanted to give older cats a comfortable later life,” Green said. 

Cats Protection / Guinness World Records

And Flossie, though the current record-holder, is far from the oldest cat to have ever lived. That honor goes to a Texas feline named Creme Puff, who made it to age 38 before crossing the rainbow bridge in 2005.

These days, Flossie spends her time curled up in her favorite yellow blanket or snuggling with her new owner. 

“If I’m in such good shape when I’m her age with someone who does what’s best for me when I need it most, I shall be a very happy lady,” said Green. 

fantastic winter meteor shower and the snow-capped mountains.
standret / iStock

December’s night sky brings us Mars at peak brilliance, a lunar occultation, and two meteor showers to look forward to, along with Winter Solstice heralding the first official day of winter (which is actually not weather-related).

Of course, we can’t forget the December night sky event: North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will begin tracking the whereabouts of Santa and his reindeer-led sleigh starting at 12:01 a.m. MST on December 24 — a tradition that’s been maintained since 1955.


Mars will be at its most dazzling in the last month of 2022. At some point between the evening of December 7 and the early hours of December 8, depending on your location, we’ll be treated to an “occultation,” during which time the full moon will pass in front of Mars. If you’d like to watch from the comfort of your couch, the Griffith Observatory will be hosting a live online broadcast of the occultation of Mars by the moon from 6-7:45 p.m. PT on December 7.

And on December 8, Mars will be at opposition, fully illuminated by the Sun and at its brightest for 2022. Should you have access to a telescope, you may even be able to glimpse some of the red planet’s surface details

On December 21, Mercury will be at its greatest eastern elongation, which means it will be farthest from the sunset and at its highest point above the horizon in the night sky.


Kamal Kathari / iStock

Full Moon
Date: December 8

This month’s full moon, known perhaps not so surprisingly as the Cold Moon, will reach peak illumination at 11:09 p.m. ET.

Geminids Meteor Shower
Dates: December 7-17

Promising up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour, the Geminids Meteor Shower is the one to watch this month. Dubbed “the king of the meteor showers” by SeaSky, it can best be viewed from a dark location after midnight. The annual shower peaks this year on the night of December 13 and the morning of December 14.

Winter Solstice
Date: December 21

Considered the first official day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, December’s solstice — taking place at 4:48 p.m. ET on December 21 — is marked by the moment when the sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn. It’s more commonly known for being the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, after which point the waning of daylight hours begins to reverse and the days once again grow longer as we draw closer to March’s daylight saving time.

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Ursids Meteor Shower
Dates: December 17-25

Generally considered to be a minor meteor shower — only producing up to 10 meteors per hour — the Ursids meteor shower is the result of lingering dust grains left in the wake of the comet Tuttle, discovered in 1790. Given that it takes place close to the December 23 new moon and its darkened skies this month, you may be lucky enough to spot its meteors, particularly if you’re in a rural area away from city lights. It peaks on the night of December 21 and the morning of December 22.

New Moon
Date: December 23

The new moon is the perfect time to stargaze since the lack of moonlight means that the stars and planets are more visible. 

Charity And Donation Icon Set. Flat design with Long Shadow
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Giving Tuesday — widely heralded as a global day of giving back — takes place annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. What was once a simple altruistic idea launched by two organizations has become a beloved holiday tradition that has spanned the world within a decade.  

The first Giving Tuesday took place in 2012, a collaborative effort launched by The 92nd Street Y in New York and the United Nations Foundation. It was envisioned to serve as a sort of counterbalance to the highly commercialized, consumerism-centered events that had sprouted up after Thanksgiving — Black Friday and Cyber Monday, in particular — which focus on holiday shopping deals, Vox reported. Giving Tuesday’s founders hoped that people might welcome the opportunity to turn their attention away from making purchases and toward giving back to their communities and to charitable organizations. And they would happily prove to be right.  

Prior to the inaugural event, The 92nd Street Y developed the #GivingTuesday hashtag, marketing advice, resources, and even a website with a logo, solely with the intention of guiding and encouraging others to join the movement. Rob Reich, a professor of political science and philosophy at Stanford University who participated in the development of the idea and now serves as chairman of the board for the official Giving Tuesday nonprofit organization, explained that not copyrighting any of these elements was intentional.

“It was a deliberate choice not to have intellectual property,” Reich told Vox. “We had a website with a logo but it was not copyrighted. You could use the hashtag, you could do whatever you wanted with it. Everyone could put their own content into it, with the hope it could spread.”

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That first official event proved to be a success, raising an estimated $10 million for charities via online Giving Tuesday fundraisers. In 2013, $28 million was raised, and the global generosity movement has shown few signs of slowing down. Even during 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, charitable giving hit record highs. According to the GivingTuesday organization, donations reached $2.47 billion in the U.S. alone — 25% higher than 2019’s figure — with around 35 million people participating.

In 2019, Giving Tuesday formally separated from The 92nd Street Y and became an independent nonprofit and global movement focused on the concept of radical generosity. As GivingTuesday’s CEO Asha Curran pointed out to Vox, “Giving Tuesday exists in countries where Black Friday and Cyber Monday don’t exist, and that reminds us that there’s this value that unites us.” 

The official GivingTuesday website offers a wealth of information and advice on where and how to participate, with specialized suggestions tailored to individuals, businesses, schools, and charitable organizations. It’s also worth noting that Giving Tuesday is “not just a fundraising day,” according to Curran. Rather, it’s also a day to focus the spotlight on a larger discussion about giving back, having conversations about doing good, bringing attention to beloved causes, and more — all with the intention of encouraging people to make a more regular habit of giving and getting involved in their communities.

“We each have the power to make an impact with acts of generosity, no matter how small, and to ensure the sustainability of organizations and services that are crucial to the care and support of our communities,” Curran said in a statement in 2020, when the organization announced a day of global action for giving and unity in response to COVID-19. She added: “Even as many face financial uncertainty, generosity is not about size. Every act of kindness is not only a beacon of hope, it’s a critical act of civic and social solidarity.”

A mature adult caucasian woman hands a customer her shopping purchase at a home retail store.
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In the classic 1998 rom-com You’ve Got Mail, a small independent bookstore owner and a high-powered executive who runs a wildly successful chain of mega bookstores (played by Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, respectively) meet in an anonymous online chat room. They proceed to fall in love via a wholesome exchange of heartfelt (and still anonymous) emails before deciding to meet in person — blissfully unaware, at least at first, that they are in fact business rivals in real life.

While their romance is the primary focus of the plot, the film also poignantly captures the struggles of small business owners everywhere: many pour their hearts and souls into small-scale shops and companies in a market that soundly favors their well-funded corporate competitors. It’s because of this reality that Small Business Saturday was formed.           

The proverbial mom and pop shop remains a beloved underdog in our collective consciousness and culture. In a happy twist on the unexpected, though, it was a successful corporation that launched the first Small Business Saturday in an effort to showcase the unique strengths and advantages that small businesses can bring to the marketplace.

Small Business Saturday — and what evolved into the broader Shop Small Movement — was founded by American Express (AmEx) two years after the 2008 recession. The company’s intention was to inspire more customers to do their post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping with small businesses, and uplift local communities in the process, during the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

That first event was a success. The following year, in 2011, the day was co-sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the U.S. Senate passed a resolution officially designating that Saturday after Thanksgiving — November 26, 2011 — as Small Business Saturday. As stated by former Sen. Olympia Snowe, one of the resolution’s chief proponents, “During the busiest shopping season of the year, we should remember that our local restaurants, bookshops, and hardware stores are the economic engines in our communities.” To further generate support for the idea, the slogan “Shop Unique, Shop On Main Street” was used, emphasizing that the personal touch as well as the diversity and vitality of offerings provided by small businesses could fill a niche that corporations and their mass-produced products often can’t replicate.

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According to AmEx, the movement almost immediately blossomed on a broader level, with nationwide supporters planning events and activities around “Small Business Saturday,” aiming to bolster support for small businesses all year long. 

This year, AmEx and TikTok have launched the #ShopSmall Accelerator, a program designed to provide small businesses with tools and resources to expand their reach and attract new customers on the influential social media platform. According to a recent Shop Small Impact Study conducted by the credit card service company, 67% of Gen Z users have purchased from small businesses that were advertised on their For You Page on TikTok.

“Shopping small has a significant impact on helping local communities, with two-thirds of every dollar spent at small businesses staying within the local community,” said AmEx’s Chief Marketing Officer Elizabeth Rutledge. 

As noted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the COVID-19 pandemic amplified awareness of exactly how vulnerable small businesses are: countless found themselves shuttered as local spending slowed or ceased altogether in the midst of stay-at-home lockdowns and social distancing. But subsequently, consumers have become exceedingly more mindful of their purchasing power and its impact on local businesses. Today, the Shop Small Movement has not only resumed but it has happily gained momentum as a result. 

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Statistics show that the support is measurable and impactful. Per Rutledge, “Last year, consumers reported spending more than $23B shopping small on Small Business Saturday, and we want to exceed that in 2022.” 

With the power of purposeful purchasing having found its way into the mainstream mindset, the future of small businesses everywhere looks brighter than ever.