The last and longest full moon of the year will be visible for three consecutive nights, starting Friday, December 17, 2021, and is set to peak at 11:37 p.m. EST on Saturday. This event is celebrated in many parts of the globe and is often associated with local cultural and historical traditions.
While in the United States, this moon is known as the “Cold Moon,” a Mohawk name referring to the chilly weather conditions during this period, in Europe, ancient pagans called it the “Moon before Yule,” in honor of Yuletide, an annual indigenous three-day festival during which pre-Christian Germanic peoples celebrated the winter solstice.
In druid traditions, the so-called “Oak Moon” is connected to the ancient druid custom of harvesting mistletoe from oak trees at the onset of winter, a practice that was first documented by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder in the 1st century CE.
The Cold Moon is also celebrated in several Eastern traditions. For Hindus, this moon is associated to the Datta Jayanti festival, which commemorates the birthday of the Hindu god Dattatreya (Datta), and to the Thiruvathira festival that takes place annually in the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and celebrates the meeting between Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvathi.
For the Buddhists in Sri Lanka, the “Unduvap Full Moon Poya” marks the arrival in Anuradhapura, an ancient political and religious capital city, of a tree sapling supposedly collected from the famous Bodhi tree under which Buddha is said to have attained Enlightenment. The sapling was brought to Anuradhapura by King Ashoka’s daughter, Sangamitta, in the third century BCE.
In China, this moon is currently called “Chang’e Moon,” in the honor of the Chinese astronauts who landed on the moon in the Chang’e space missions from December-January 2013, 2019, and 2020. These space missions and the holiday get their name from the Chinese goddess of the moon, Chang’e, who lived on the moon with her pet rabbit Yutu.
Regardless of its name or cultural associations, this moon remains a spectacular event all over the world, offering breathtaking views of the night sky during an entire weekend.
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer