The full Moon September 2023 marks a time to reap what was sewn in the spring. After months of soaking in life-giving rays from the Sun and rainwater from the clouds—combined with careful tending from gardeners and farmers—there are grains to be stored and fruits and vegetables to be canned. It’s a time to celebrate the bounty of summer while preparing for long, cold winter months when large swaths of land go dormant.
Full Moon September 2023: Friday, September 29 (The fourth and final supermoon of 2023.)
Peak Illumination: 5:58 a.m. Eastern Time
Related: How To Celebrate The Harvest Moon
Related: Full Moon Calendar
Why Is The September Full Moon The Harvest Moon (Usually)?
September is a critical month for harvesting crops in the Northern Hemisphere. Doubly so in the northern reaches of the Northern Hemisphere.
It’s little wonder that the full Moon occurring closest to the autumn equinox is called the Harvest Moon. And it’s difficult to think of another full Moon more widely recognized by a single name that’s been immortalized in songs, films, and even a video game. A farming simulation video game called Harvest Moon in Western markets was released in 1996 (more than a decade before FarmVille sprouted into popularity).
The Harvest Moon isn’t exclusively a September event because the full Moon occurring closest to the autumn equinox gets hung with this moniker. Every few years, October (rather than September) hosts this Moon that once was critical to farmers in Europe.
Before electricity and tractors with lights used to harvest crops all night long, farmers relied on the Harvest Moon’s light to extend workdays when fields were most bountiful.
Religious observations and myths surrounding the autumn equinox are just as plentiful as the crops themselves.
Romans held a festival for the goddess of fruits and growing things. Ancient Greek mythology gives us the story of Persephone’s annual return to the Underworld. An event that saddens her mother, Demeter, the harvest goddess. During these months Demeter refused to make plants grow, explaining the months of winter every year.
The Moon Festival in China is a national holiday that corresponds to the full Moon on the autumn equinox. Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, Chinese and Vietnamese communities celebrate the abundance of the harvest at this time. Mooncakes filled with lotus, sesame seeds, a duck egg, or dried fruits are among popular treats served during this season.
Among Christians, Michaelmas is a minor festival. The Catholic church is the branch of Christianity most likely to celebrate the Feast of Michael and All Angels these days. Though centuries ago, servants in England were paid after the harvest around the time of Michaelmas in late September.
Likewise, many American Indian peoples recognized this Moon for its marking of the seasonal change and time of harvest. Known as the “Autumn Moon” to the Passamaquoddy in present day Northeast United States it is “After Harvest” in the language of the Kalapuya in the Pacific Northwest and called the “Moon Of Full Harvest” by the Hopi in the Southwest.
But what Is being harvested?
Among the Cherokee along the east coast of the Carolinas it is the “Nut Moon” while the Creek in Alabama and Georgia refer to it as the “Little Chestnut Moon.”
Though corn is often used in naming this Moon. “Corn Maker Moon” (Abenaki in the Northeast), “Moon When The Corn Is Taken In” (Pueblo, Southwest) and “Corn Is Harvested” (Zuni, Southwest) are among the names for this full Moon.
It is called the “Middle Between Harvest And Eating Corn” among the Algonquin near the Great Lakes.
For the Chippewa and Ojibwe in the Great Lakes it is the “Rice Moon.” According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, “Wild rice ripens at a gradual, uneven rate. Rice can be harvested repeatedly during the season, which may extend two to three weeks on a particular lake.”
When Ojibwe were forced onto reservations in Northern Wisconsin, tribal leaders chose areas that had the best lakes and wetlands that produced wild rice, according to a Green Bay Press-Gazette article. “When harvested in the late summer to early fall, the rice could be enough to sustain them through the harsh winter months.”
Regardless of the culture, the link between this full Moon and the importance of an abundant harvest make it an important around the world.
Join The Discussion
What is your favorite name for September’s full Moon?
If you could rename the Harvest Moon, what would you call it?
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Daniel Higgins is a lifestyle writer with two decades of experience who covers a wide variety of interests, from folklore to food and drink. Higgins writes for The New York Times, USA Today, and Yahoo News.