December’s full Moon rises near sunset for several nights in a row: December 25, 26, and 27. How perfect for the Christmas season! Learn why the full Cold Moon (also called the Long Night Moon) is special.
When to See December’s Full Moon
The full Moon for December is 100% illuminated on December 26, 7:33 P.M. (EST). This is the first full Moon after the winter solstice, and it falls right during Christmastime this year!
To our eyes, the Moon’s disk will appear fully illuminated a couple of days before a full Moon, so start looking on December 24 and 25 towards the east after sunset as it peaks over the horizon. To find the exact time it will appear in your area, consult our Moon Rise Calculator.
If you look up during the December full Moon, notice how it’s nearly at the top of the sky, tracing a long path through the night, akin to Santa’s sleigh! The winter solstice Moon takes the highest path along the sky and is above the horizon longer than any Moon—hence, it’s the longest night!
Conversely, near the summer solstice in June, the Sun is highest in the sky while the Moon has the lowest arc—hence, it’s the longest day!
A Christmas Moon
The image of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer flying across the night sky, backlit by a full Moon, is familiar to all of us, thanks to many Christmas cards, as well as holiday cartoons and shows.
We all know the classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (often called “The Night Before Christmas”), which was first published in 1823. The narrator looks out his bedroom window for St. Nick, proclaiming, “The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.”
Technically, a full Moon happens every 19 years or so. This happened in 2015 and will next happen in 2034. However, a full Moon on December 24 and December 26 will also appear full to the naked eye.
If you have snow on the ground this year, a full Moon shining against snow is indeed a picturesque sight for the holidays!
The Full Cold Moon
The moon names we use in The Old Farmer’s Almanac come from Native Americans, Colonial Americans, or other traditional sources passed down through generations. Different Native American peoples traditionally used the monthly Moons and nature’s corresponding signs as a calendar to track the seasons.
December’s full Moon is most commonly known as the Cold Moon—a Mohawk name that conveys the frigid conditions of this time of year when cold weather truly begins to grip us.
The Long Night Moon
This full Moon has also been called the Long Night Moon (Mohican), as it rises during the “longest” nights of the year, near the December winter solstice.
This name is doubly fitting because December’s full Moon shines above the horizon for a more extended period than most full Moons.
Alternative December Moon Names
Other names that allude to the cold and snow include Drift Clearing Moon (Cree), Frost Exploding Trees Moon (Cree), Moon of the Popping Trees (Oglala), Hoar Frost Moon (Cree), Snow Moon (Haida, Cherokee), and Winter Maker Moon (Western Abenaki).
Other names include Moon When the Deer Shed Their Antlers (Dakota) and Little Spirit Moon (Anishinaabe).
In Europe, ancient pagans called the December full Moon the “Moon Before Yule” in honor of the Yuletide festival celebrating the return of the sun heralded by the winter solstice.