The full Moon February 2024 occurs during the shortest calendar month of the year. Traditionally known as the “Snow” Moon, February’s Moon has many alternative names as well—even a name when February has no full Moon at all: “Black” Moon. Learn more about this curious astronomical anomaly and more …
Full Moon February 2024: Saturday, February 24
Peak Illumination: 7:30 a.m. EST
Why Is The February Full Moon The “Snow” Moon? Plus, Other Chilly Names
It’s easy enough to recognize why February’s full Moon is commonly called the “Snow Moon.” Depending on location and climate conditions, February can be one of the snowiest months of the year. This is especially true throughout the Ohio River Valley in the eastern and central US, as well as in the coastal Pacific Northwest. Furthermore, at this mid-winter point without many other strongly distinguishing characteristics—no plants to harvest, no new plants blooming—snow can be the most prominent trait of the month.
Similar chilly names are also common. The Mahican tribe of the northeastern US and into Wisconsin, for example, clarify that this is the “Deep Snow Moon” while the Oneida tribe of upstate New York and the Great Lakes region call this the “Midwinter Moon.”
In some Celtic histories, February’s full Moon is referred to as the “Ice Moon.” In Maine, the Abenaki tribe calls this Moon “Makes Branches Fall in Pieces Moon,” which is exactly what can happen when ice builds up on tree limbs. The Lakota of the northern plains have a similar name for February’s full Moon, “When Trees Crack Because of Cold Moon.”
In different areas where climates vary, so too do the full Moon’s names vary to reflect the local seasons. For example, the Comanche tribe of the southern plains, where temperatures may begin warming in late February, call this the “Sleet Moon” to indicate the possibility of hints of spring. Similarly, “Frost Sparkling in the Sun Moon” is from the Arapaho tribe of the Great Plains, where snowfall is less but the cold still appears as thick frost.
Even further south, some spring-like names may begin to appear as early as February. The Catawba tribe of South Carolina refer to this month’s full Moon as the “First Flower Moon” to mark that eagerly awaited first sign of spring.
Names Noting Seasonal Deprivation
After months of winter weather, February can be a month of low food supplies with no new plants to replenish supplies. Because of this, the February full Moon has several names that refer to hunger or scarcity, including the simple “Hunger Moon” or “Hungry Moon” from the Cherokee tribe of North Carolina. The Cherokee also refer to this Moon as the “Bone Moon” or “Bony Moon” for late winter weight loss or needing to utilize bones as a food source when other foods have become scarce.
Other tribes have referred to the February full Moon by hunger-related names as well. The Choctaw of the southeastern US call this the “Moon of Big Famine” while the Kalapuya tribe of the Pacific Northwest use the name “Out of Food Moon,” showing that such deprivations are common in many areas at this time of year.
Animals in February
Many months reference animals in full Moon names, such as January’s Wolf Moon or July’s Buck Moon. In February, many animals are hibernating or otherwise as scarce as fresh plants, but some tribes do choose animals for names.
The Haida of Alaska call this the “Goose Moon” as geese begin to return to their northern nesting grounds even before hints of spring may appear. The Omaha tribe of the central plains have similar naming, with February’s full Moon called “Moon When Geese Come Home.”
The Tlingit of the Pacific Northwest use the name “Black Bear Moon” as black bears begin to stir and move about in February. Likewise, the Ojibwe of southern Canada and the northern plains calls this the “When the Bear Cubs Are Born Moon” to show that important life cycle.
No Full Moon at All?
An important distinction of February’s Moon phases is that the month may not have any full Moon at all. Because the lunar phase cycle is 29.5 days, when there is a full Moon at the very end of January, there will be no full Moon recorded that February. That absence is often called the “Black Moon” which keeps the naming cycle synced with other months.
The disappearance of February’s full Moon happens approximately every 19 years, most recently in 2018. The next February without a full Moon will be in 2037, followed by 2075 and 2094.
The year 2048 will be a very rare February full Moon occurrence indeed – when the full Moon occurs on Leap Day, February 29. The timing of this one day every four years coincides so infrequently with the lunar phase cycle that there will only be four Leap Day full Moons this millennium, with 2048 being the first. The other three Leap Day February full Moons will occur in 2132, 2216, and 2376.
February is a unique Moon month indeed, not only for the naming of its full Moon, but for when there is no full Moon at all or when we can all leap for joy at the Leap Day full Moon.
Join The Discussion
What is your favorite name for Februarys full Moon?
If you could rename the Snow 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.