As Christmas night approaches, the last full moon of 2023 will grace the skies, reaching its peak on the subsequent evening, casting a warm lunar glow over the cool holiday nights.
Visible as a fully round spectacle from Sunday onward, December’s full moon will continue to adorn the night sky for several evenings after reaching its maximum fullness at 7:33 p.m. ET on Tuesday, as per the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Referred to as the “cold moon,” this month’s full moon derives its name from Native Americans, particularly the Mohawk people, acknowledging the colder temperatures typically associated with December in the Northern Hemisphere.
Various names for this final full moon of the year include the “Snow Moon,” the “Winter Maker Moon,” and the “Moon When the Deer Shed Their Antlers,” highlighting the season when many deer species shed their antlers as breeding concludes. Interestingly, only female caribou retain their antlers by Christmas time, distinguishing Santa’s reindeer, which are domesticated caribou, as female.
Occurring shortly after the winter solstice on December 21, the full moon will be the first to grace the skies since the solstice, marking the shortest day of the year. The Almanac notes that the winter solstice Moon takes the highest path along the sky, extending its presence above the horizon longer than any other moon, contributing to the longest night.
Given the proximity of the full cold moon to the solstice, sky-gazers will have ample opportunities to enjoy the spectacle during the long nights. Clear views of the sky will enable observers to witness this celestial display, with unobstructed views of the horizon enhancing the experience.