Hey, Is That a Full Moon?

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It is alleged to be a “snow moon” tonight–the February full moon. I have been sheltered or culturally straitened, because I don’t recall hearing that term before today, or “harvest moon” or “hunter’s moon” or any of the rest of the names I hear used to describe the full moons of various seasons in are mostly indoor-dwelling, non-harvesting, non-hunting society.

In the suburbs where I did my first conscious moon-viewing, it was always, “Hey, it’s a full moon,” twelve months out of twelve. Then inside to see what was on the TV. If snow lay on the ground, a circumstance that might coincide with any moon between October and April, that could be a snow moon. Or a thaw moon. Or an wind chill moon. Or a balmy out-of-season moon. Or a do you want to go for a walk? moon.

But again, more likely would be: “Is the moon full tonight?” The question giving way to speculation and giving license to throw around terms like gibbous and waxing and waning and opposition.

The moon name I’ve run across for this second-month moon, this late northern winter moon, the sobriquet that rings with some meaning is “hunger moon.” Yes, I can understand that. Snow could come any time after the final harvest or after the game became scarce with the cold. But by this time, within shouting distance of the turning of the season, you can imagine hunger tightening its grip as larders emptied and rations grew short. Let us please hang on till our food returns.

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