As the winter solstice approaches, the chill in the air deepens, and the frosty grip of winter begins to tighten.
Days grow ever shorter, and the nights are at their longest and darkest (well…more or less!).
It is, therefore, no wonder that December’s full Moon is known as both the Cold Moon and the Long Night’s Moon.
Why is it called the “Cold Moon”?
As we already know, traditionally, moon names come from Native American, Colonial American, or other traditional sources passed down through generations. Lot of Native Americans traditionally used the monthly Moons and nature’s corresponding signs as a calendar to track the seasons.
In ancient times, it was common to track the changing seasons by following the lunar month rather than the solar year, which the 12 months in our modern calendar are based on.
Nowadays December’s full Moon is most commonly known as the Cold Moon, a Mohawk name that conveys the frigid conditions of this time of year, when cold weather truly sets in.
Not by chance, December is the month when winter truly begins in most of the Northern Hemisphere, and most of the ancient Full Moon names are related to the low temperatures and darkness of December.
Other names that allude to the cold and snow include Drift Clearing Moon (Cree), Frost Exploding Trees Moon (Cree), Moon of the Popping Trees (Oglala), Hoar Frost Moon (Cree), Snow Moon (Haida, Cherokee), and Winter Maker Moon (Western Abenaki), but it has also been called the Long Night Moon (Mohican), because it rises during the “longest” nights of the year, which are near the December winter solstice. This name is doubly fitting because December’s full Moon shines above the horizon for a longer period of time than most full Moons.
Other names include Moon When the Deer Shed Their Antlers (Dakota) and Little Spirit Moon (Anishinaabe).
In Europe, ancient pagans called the December full Moon the “Moon Before Yule,” in honor of the Yuletide festival celebrating the return of the sun heralded by winter solstice. Yule or Yuletide is an ancient festival observed by Germanic people, and many present-day Christmas traditions can be traced to it.
The December Full Moon is also called Oak Moon, while a Celtic name was Wolf Moon. Today, however, this name is more common for the January Full Moon.
This year, 2021 December’s full Cold Moon rises on Saturday, December 18, 2021, and reaches peak illumination at 11:37 P.M. EST.
And it’s a “Micromoon.”
Think of this term as the opposite of a “Supermoon”.
It simply means that the full Moon is at its farthest point from Earth, and not the nearest point.
Basically, in astronomical terms, we call this its “apogee” and, more specifically, December’s Micro Full Moon is about 252,000 miles from our Earth!
And why is the Moon nearer or farther (in this instance) from Earth?
Simply, the Moon orbits Earth in an elliptical path: one side is nearer to Earth and one side is farther.
This distance does affect the Moon’s size and brightness, although it’s probably not that visible to the naked eye, and the perceived size of the Moon from Earth is more related to the so called “Moon Illusion” and how close the Moon appears to the horizon. In this case, it’s high above the horizon so it may appear smaller over us rather then when it’s near the horizon.
Images from web – Google Research