The start of 2012 brings with it a new year of skywatching, and lunar enthusiasts are gearing up for a stunning lineup of full moons. But, where does the tradition of full moon names come from?
Full moon names date back to Native Americans of a few hundred years ago, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. To keep track of the changing seasons, these tribes gave distinctive names to each recurring full moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.
There were some variations in the moon names, but in general, the same ones were used throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England, continuing west to Lake Superior.
European settlers followed their own customs and created some of their own names. Here is a list of all of the full moon names, as well as the dates and times for 2012: (Unless otherwise noted, all times are given in Eastern Standard Time.) Jan. 9, 2:30 a.m. EST — Full Wolf Moon. Amid the cold and deep snows of mid-winter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. January’s full moon was also known as the Old Moon or the Moon after Yule. In some tribes, this was the Full Snow Moon, but most applied that name to next month’s moon.