On Dec. 25, 1922, veteran golfers reportedly enjoyed the novelty of playing their game Christmas Day.

On the springlike day there was no snow on the ground in the Twin Cities and the temperature was 51 degrees at noon. The normal high and low temperatures for the date are 25 and 10 degrees, respectively. The 51-degree mark still holds as the record high.

Juxtapose that with true notions of winter. Look at your own shadow or a tree shadow. Sunlight now casts the longest shadows of the year. The sun no longer creeps southward, but each sunset moves a little to the north. We can all take comfort in that. Also, now the sunlight's intensity is just a quarter of the maximum level we felt back in June, and fresh snow reflects close to 90% of the sun's radiation. No wonder we experience cold days!

Subzero temperatures, or close to that, bring elegant frost patterns to the insides of some clear glass windowpanes. The designs come in swirls and feathers, fronds and trees.

Black-capped chickadees, with heartbeats of about 700 pumps per minute, need to eat the equivalent of their own weight (about the same as two 25-cent coins) daily to survive the winter. House finches, mourning doves and nuthatches are among the first visitors to drink from a heated birdbath each day. Bird feeder birds such as northern cardinals, blue jays and downy woodpeckers are active.

Chipmunks are awake but stay in and eat from food stored in their underground burrows. Timberwolves travel on the wind-packed snow of northern lakes. Screech owls often roost in wood duck houses.

Untold millions of individual animals — including wood frogs, American toads, painted turtles, black bears, woodchucks, red admiral butterflies, wood ticks and various mosquitoes — are hibernating.

Northern white cedars and various spruces and pines each have their own shade of green.

December is full of natural marvels, from intricate snowflakes, to a chickadee taking seeds from a human hand, to the sights of Orion and the Big Dipper on a cold, clear night. Take time to celebrate all the beauty and wonder.

Jim Gilbert has taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.