Worm, Harvest, Blue: Every Full Moon Has A Name

Find out more about the ancient names associated with the Moon - and what they mean.

By Nathan ChandlerHow Stuff Works

A full moon is an unmistakable celestial event that basks Earth with its lunar glow, inspiring songwriters, scientists, and the occasional werewolf rampage. Throughout human history, moon phases have signalled changes in seasons and marked important cultural transitions, such planting or hunting, all reasons that people took to inventing monikers for each full moon.

Ancient full moon names often originated from Native American tribes, and the names usually symbolized something about the weather conditions or nature at the time the moon was likely to appear. European settlers adopted those names and added some of their own. Periodicals like The Farmer’s Almanac publicized the names for a wider audience. Other cultures had their own names for the moons as well.

Full moons occur about every 29.5 days. On those nights, the moon is a full disc shape, and on cloud-free nights it reflects full sunlight, illuminating the Earth below in a dreamlike glow. The second full moon in a month is usually known as a blue moon.

Full Moon Calendar 2023

Here’s a list of some of the most common names for the full moon in the Northern Hemisphere, with alternate names in parentheses, along with the dates they appear in 2023.

Jan. 6: Wolf Moon (Old Moon, Moon After Yule)

When January’s icy grip clutches the land, hungry wolves roam in search of prey. Their lonely howls inspire the name of this moon.

Feb. 5: Snow Moon (Hunger Moon)

In North America, this is a snowy and frigid month. It’s also a lean time when food is hard to find in the wild.

March 7: Worm Moon (Crow Moon, Sap Moon)

As February’s deep freeze relents, March winds warm the land, and earthworms begin to awaken from their winter slumber.

April 6: Pink Moon (Egg Moon, Grass Moon)

Native Americans noted pink wildflowers emerging around the time of the April full moon. The flowers’ hue gave rise to the moniker “pink moon.”

May 5: Flower Moon (Milk Moon, Planting Moon)

April showers bring May flowers, so May is a time of lush revitalization across North America.

June 3: Strawberry Moon (Flower Moon, Rose Moon)

If you really love strawberries, you plant the June-bearing species. Then, as June’s sunlight warms the land, your plants bear fruit under the full June moon.

July 3: Buck Moon (Thunder Moon, Hay Moon)

Every year, male deer begin growing their antlers anew around July. The buck moon marks this occasion.

Aug. 1: Sturgeon Moon (Grain MoonGreen Corn Moon)

In North America, sturgeon became more abundant and easier to catch in August, making this the sturgeon moon.

Aug. 30: This is a blue moon, an extra moon in the same month. This will be the biggest full moon of the year.

Sept. 29: Harvest Moon (Fruit Moon)

As summer fades, the weather turns cold and the days get shorter. The harvest moon is nigh.

Oct. 28: Hunter’s Moon

After a summer of plenty, the game animals of North America are in peak condition. It’s traditionally the best time for hunters to take to the field, stocking up on meat for the winter.

Nov. 27: Beaver Moon (Frosty Moon)

Beavers briskly prepare their dams for winter, and trappers step up their efforts to catch the chubby little guys in the act. It’s the Beaver moon.

Dec. 26: Cold Moon (Full Long Nights Moon)

If you’ve ever been to North Dakota in December, this one requires no interpretation whatsoever.

Now That’s Interesting

The moon and sun aren’t perfectly in sync, so every year the moon finishes its final cycle a few days before the sun. Over time, those days accumulate, allowing for an extra moon to appear in a season. Originally, the third moon in a season with four moons was called the blue moon. Now the term usually means the second full moon in a calendar month.

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