Skip to main content

Rare Christmas Full Moon: A Gift of Silvery Rays for Turtle Island

The moon will be full on Christmas for the first time in 38 years; look for it to shine brightly overnight Christmas Eve, building up to full at 6:11a
  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

The Star of Bethlehem will have some competition this year, as Christmas morning graces us with the first full moon on this day since 1977.

At precisely 6:11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, the moon will hit exact fullness, after arcing all night through the heavens as what is known as the Long Night Moon, or Cold Moon, according to Earthsky.org. The festivities start on Christmas Eve, when the moon’s path mirrors that of the sun in June.

“The December full moon, like the June sun, climbs up high as seen from the Northern Hemisphere sky,” says Earthsky.org. “That’s another reason for the name Long Night Moon. The full moon nearest the winter solstice travels a high path across the sky and so stays in the sky a long time.”

Thus the December 24 moon will shine throughout the night, starting at sunset, Earthsky.org says. And when Christmas Day dawns, it will be blazing.

A full moon on Christmas is indeed a rare occurrence. Not only has it not happened in nearly 40 years, but it also will not occur again until 2034, 19 years from now. That is the length of something called the Metonic Cycle, which is when the moon’s phases start repeating on the same day. But sometimes the moment of fullness misses the exact day, as happened in 1996, when Asia, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand had a Christmas full moon but the exact moment of fullness across Turtle Island fell on December 24. This pushed it up a day, so 19 years later brings us to 2015, and our first full Christmas moon in 38 years.

Ironically, Christmas is often associated with a full moon. The animations of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer show Santa and his sleigh riding high across a great shining orb. And fullness is implied in the epic poem The Night Before Christmas with the lines, "The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow, gave the luster of mid-day to objects below,” as Space.com notes.

But the math tells us that the moon was not full when the poem was penned in 1823.

If it’s cloudy, or you want some commentary with your full moon, it can be viewed online at the Slooh space telescope, which will begin broadcasting at 7 p.m. Eastern Time on Christmas Eve.

Regardless of the exact moment of fullness, the moon appears full a few days after Winter Solstice.

RELATED: Winter Solstice: Turtle Island Hunkers Down for the Longest Night

And whether it’s called the Long Night Moon, or vskihyi, the snow moon (Cherokee), or “when the wolves run together” as in Cheyenne, or kyaamuya, (Hopi, moon of respect), or shanáx dís (Tlingit, “unborn seals are getting hair”), or washilatha kiishthwa (Shawnee, eccentric moon), the underlying sentiment is the same. It may be the ik'ohbu yachunne (“sun has traveled home to rest”) moon, as the Zuni say, but this just means that the light is inevitably returning, in one form or another, and music is in our hearts.

Merry Christmas, Turtle Island.