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December: Cold Moon

In December, winter sets in and the Full Moon is called the Cold Moon. It is also called Long Nights Moon, and the Moon before Yule.

Moonrise over alpine peaks in Utah.

A Cold Moon rising over the mountains.


In ancient times, it was common to track the changing seasons by following the lunar month rather than the solar year, which the 12 months in our modern calendar are based on.

For millennia, people across Europe, as well as Native American tribes, named the months after features they associated with the Northern Hemisphere seasons, and many of these names are very similar or identical.

Full Moon Names

Today, we use many of these ancient month names as Full Moon names. A common explanation is that Colonial Americans adopted many of the Native American names and incorporated them into the modern calendar.

However, it seems that it is a combination of Native American, Anglo-Saxon, and Germanic month names which gave birth to the names commonly used for the Full Moon today.

Some years have 13 Full Moons, which makes one of them a Blue Moon, as it doesn't quite fit in with the traditional Full Moon naming system. However, this is not the only definition of a Blue Moon.

The Cold Sets In

December is the month when winter truly begins in most of the Northern Hemisphere. Most of the ancient Full Moon names are related to the low temperatures and darkness of December. The most common name is the Cold Moon, while another is Long Nights Moon.

The Anglo-Saxon name was the Moon Before Yule, which is the ancient celebration around the winter solstice. The December Full Moon is also called Oak Moon, while a Celtic name was Wolf Moon. Today, however, this name is more common for the January Full Moon.

Coldest in December?

On our climate pages, you can see which month is the coldest, warmest, wettest, and windiest in cities all over the world.

There are areas in the Pacific Northwest, Southern California and southwestern regions of Arizona where the coldest day of the year is in mid-December. The eastern parts of the US and the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains typically get the coldest day in mid-to-late January, according to NOAA. This is because there is more snow in the East as well as in the Rockies, and increased snow cover reflects sunlight, which keeps ground temperatures colder.

In Europe, the coldest months are December, January, and February. However, temperatures vary wildly.

Topics: Moon, December, Calendar, History, Solstice, Seasons, Months, Full Moon Names