The full Moon December 2023 arrives when the chill of winter settles over the land, casting a brilliant light over the frozen landscape and emphasizing the quiet stillness of the season. This particular full Moon is commonly referred to as the “Cold Moon” due to its association with low temperatures, however, its significance extends far beyond low temperatures.
Full Moon December 2023: Tuesday, December 26
Peak Illumination: 7:33 p.m. Eastern Time
Why Is The December Full Moon The Cold Moon?
The name “Cold Moon” is a descriptive label for the December full Moon, used by various native North American tribes and Celtic culture. In the Northern Hemisphere, December often marks the coldest day of the year, although temperatures can significantly vary, and record lows can happen at any point during the winter months. Since December signifies the official start of winter, it is often associated with the coldest temperatures, as the season settles and intensifies. This is also reflected in the Chinese name for this month’s Moon, “Bitter Moon,” which likely alludes to the bitter cold that arrives in December.
More Seasonal December Full Moon Names
Another reason for the name “Cold Moon” is because of the long winter nights, when the cold lasts the longest before the Sun rises again to warm the Earth. This is why December’s Full Moon is also called “Full Long Nights Moon” or “Long Night Moon” by the Mahican, Oneida tribes, and neo-pagan cultures. The full Moon appears exceptionally long in December when nights are at their longest, allowing the Moon’s light to shine for a longer duration than any other time of the year. In contrast, the Sun’s presence is much shorter during December, leading to the Zuni tribe referring to it as the “Sun Has Traveled Home to Rest” Moon in the southwest.
Because of the emphasis of winter in this month, the simple name “Winter Moon” is often used, especially by the Shoshone tribe of the Great Basin. “Dead of Winter Moon” is a slightly more descriptive name used by the Alaskan Inupiat peoples, reflecting the greater severity of the season so far north. “Snow Moon” is another relatively common term with the Cherokee and Haida tribes, highlighting that the first snow generally falls in December in many areas.
In further relating to quirks of the beginning of winter, “Popping Trees Moon” is a name used by the Arapaho and Oglala tribes, noting that this is the time of year when sap can freeze and rupture the tree’s bark, causing popping or snapping noises from what seems to be an empty, silent forest.
Harvesting and Hunting—Even in December
Many other full Moons during the year are aptly named after available foods and harvesting, such as the “Strawberry Moon” of June or the “Sturgeon Moon” of August. December is no exception, despite the fact that most harvesting is long since finished by the end of the year. This Moon is occasionally called the “Oak Moon” which is thought to originate with medieval English or Druid customs related to harvesting mistletoe from oak trees when the white berries are their fullest.
Another plant-based name for the December full Moon is the “Evergreen Moon,” used by the Comanche tribe of the southern plains and referring to trees that are the highlight of the month as they do not lose their greenery.
Different Moons throughout the year also highlight animals, such as the “Buck Moon” of July or the “Beaver Moon” of November. In December, the Dakota, Lakota, and Sioux tribes call the Moon “When Deer Shed Their Antlers” to note that maturity and the time to gather the antlers for use.
Spiritual December Moon Names
Because the month can be drab and desolate, some cultures have names for December’s full Moon that instead look inside oneself rather than looking to exterior seasons. The Ojibwe and Chippewa tribes of The Great Lakes region call this the “Little Spirit Moon” as a more reflective option, while the Hopi of the southwest use the term “Moon of Respect” to note spiritual respect. The Catawba of South Carolina use the term “Storytelling Moon” to note this as the time of year when tales and legends are told and retold, fostering respect for their culture and sharing it with new generations.
Even American Colonial traditions recognize the December full Moon as a spiritual time by calling this the “Christmas Moon” or “Moon Before Yule” to show its place in the religious cycle as well as the natural cycle.
Full December Moon in the Southern Hemisphere
While December may be the onset of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, those same full Moon names would make no sense in the Southern Hemisphere, which is enjoying spring and summer during December. To that end, the full Moon names south of the Equator reflect that difference in seasons, and the December full Moon is often called the “Strawberry Moon,” “Rose Moon,” or “Honey Moon” in different regions. In South Africa, it is the “Fruit Moon” to connect to the rich and sweet harvest that month.
No matter what you may celebrate in December or what the season is like in your region, the full Moon can shed stunning light on your night and illuminate all that is beautiful in the changing of the season and nature’s enduring cycle.
Join The Discussion
What is your favorite name for December’s full Moon?
If you could rename the Cold Moon, what would you call it?
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Melissa Mayntz is a writer who specializes in birds and birding, though her work spans a wide range—from folklore to healthy living. Her first book, Migration: Exploring the Remarkable Journeys of Birds was published in 2020. Mayntz also writes for National Wildlife Magazine and The Spruce. Find her at MelissaMayntz.com.