When to See the ‘Cold Moon’ in December

When to See the ‘Cold Moon’ in December
Photo: Sebastian_Photography, Shutterstock

November’s bloody eclipse of the beaver moon was spectacular, but do not discount the full moon of December. Know as the “cold moon,” December’s full moon will rise on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021. It will be brightest at 10:35 p.m. AEDT. Brrr.

Is there anything special about December’s full moon?

Every month’s full moon is special in its own way, but honestly, December’s is pretty meh. It will be high in sky, resulting in it being visible above the horizon for longer, so that’s at least something. And even a run-of-the-mill full moon is pretty cool.

If you want to get incredibly specific about when you will be able to see December’s full moon (and every other moon), here is a Moon Rise and Set Calculator for your perusal. Personally, I don’t plan my moon-peeping in advance like that. I just walk outside at night and go, “Oh, look. The moon.”

Why is it called the “cold moon?”

The names of full moons are derived from Indigenous American groups, and often are colourful descriptions of the changes in nature occurring during that time of year. The cold moon got its name from the Mohawks, because it is, uh, cold in December. (I guess whoever was in charge of thinking up moon names was having an uncreative month.)

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, December’s moon is also sometimes called the Drift Clearing Moon (Cree), Frost Exploding Trees Moon (Cree), Moon of the Popping Trees (Oglala), Hoar Frost Moon (Cree), Snow Moon (Haida, Cherokee), Winter Maker Moon (Western Abenaki), Long Night Moon, and Moon When the Deer Shed Their Antlers. These are all clearly better names than “Cold Moon.”

Over in Europe, December’s moon is referred to as the “moon before Yule,” which is even less evocative than “cold moon.”

Sneak preview (Spoiler alert!) January will have a full moon too… and it’s going to be completely naked!

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