Tomorrow night, December 10, 2011, will be the full Moon for this month. This year, I have chosen the name the Moon of Long Nights from the many names that different cultures have given to this first true winter moon.

It has been called the Cold Moon, Long Night Moon (neo-pagan),,Oak Moon (Medieval English), Snow Moon, Moon of the Popping Trees, Her Winter Houses Moon, Big Freezing Moon, Frost Moon, Moon Before Yule, Oak Moon, Twelfth Moon (Dakota Sioux), Christmas Moon (Colonial America), Wintermonat (Winter Month), Bitter Moon (China), Heilagmonoth (Holy Month), Dreaming Moon and Big Winter Moon.

This Moon of Long Nights Moon in many cultures marked the time when winter cold had a firm grip on lives and activities, and nights were, quite literally, at their longest and darkest. (Though the ancients may not have known why astronomically.)

The midwinter night is long and because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time it has a high trajectory across the sky opposite a low Sun.

The Native American Cherokee called this the Snow Moon [Vsgiyi]. The spirit being called “Snow Man” brings the cold and snow to cover the earth in the high places like a mother covering a child at night. While the earth rests, it prepares for the rebirth of the seasons in the Windy Moon [Anuyi]. Families would be putting up and storing goods for the next cycle of seasons. Elders would be indoors teaching and retelling the old stories of the people to the young people.

December was the tenth month on the old Roman calendar, the month containing the carefree Saturnalia.

The Franks called it Heilagmanoth, or Holy Month, because of its large number of sacred festivals.

On the old Tibetan calendar, December 1 was the beginning of a new year, so this was the first Full Moon of the year.

Calendars varying both through the ages and in different cultures gives the Full Moons a variety of meanings. For the Druids, the Full Moon in Hunlidh [hün’ lee] occurs in the third month of the year. It is called the Dreaming Moon & is a good time for resting. The first day of Hunlidh (the Full Moon) is when the Celts celebrate Yule. The patron deity for this month is Kreaheg. The month of Hunlidh shifts based on the Full Moons, but is considered to be from the full moon at Yule until the next Full Moon. I have also seen this Druid December Moon referred to as the Oak Moon, Cold Moon, Winter Moon, and Wolf Moon. This was seen as the time of the Dark Lord (the Oak being his symbol) but was also a time of rebirth.

This full moon occurs on the same day as the last lunar eclipse of 2011 – check out our post on that.