A Child’s Moon of Oak and Mistletoe

December Moon
Druid, Oak, Mistletoe, Full Moon

The Moon becomes full on Saturday, December 18, 2021, at 11:37 P.M. EST but it always looks full the day before and the day after to the naked eye.

You can look for it just before sunset as it appears above the horizon and this month’s Full Moon has a distinctive high trajectory across the sky and so it sits above the horizon for a longer period of time and at midnight it will be high in the night sky.

You’ve heard (or read here) names for this December Moon. Cold Moon is a Mohawk name, Snow Moon (Haida, Cherokee), and Winter Maker Moon (Western Abenaki), Drift Clearing Moon (Cree), Moon When the Deer Shed Their Antlers (Dakota) and Little Spirit Moon (Anishinaabe), Frost Exploding Trees Moon (Cree), Moon of the Popping Trees (Oglala), and Hoar Frost Moon (Cree) are all possibilities of names filled with wintery images. They are all very Northern Hemisphere names.

The Long Night Moon (Mohican) is a name that became popular with colonists because it connects to the Winter Solstice and the “longest” nights of the year.  December’s Full Moon also shines above the horizon for a longer period of time than most Full Moons.

Some believe that the Oak Moon name ties back to ancient Druid traditions of harvesting mistletoe from oak trees, a practice first recorded by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder in the 1st century CE. The term “druid” may derive from the Proto-Indo-European roots for “oak” and “to see,” suggesting “druid” means “oak knower” or “oak seer.” The mistletoe tradition remains with us, though it devolved into a kissing tradition.

Mistletoe growth is what is knowns as parasitic symbiosis. It is an unromantic relationship when one organism exploits the other. Mistletoe seeds embed on oak trees and roots into the oak and steal water and nutrients. A few are harmless but a heavy mistletoe infestation can even kill the tree.

European pagans had long known this as the Moon Before Yule to mark the Yuletide festival celebrating the return of the sun at the Winter Solstice.

I discovered recently that this could be called the Child’s Moon. On the NASA website, they relate the story of 7-year-old Astrid walking home from school with her father and seeing the rising full Moon. She said: “You know what this Moon is called? It’s called a Child Moon. Because the Moon rises at a time that the children, they can see it, because they’re not in bed, and they might even be outside like we are right now.”

My new granddaughter is 20 months old, so this winter is the first time she is aware of it getting dark while she’s still awake for a few hours. I will have to look up at the Full Moon with her this month. Good night, Moon.

child moon
Image by RENE RAUSCHENBERGER