Smallest Full Moon of Year Packs an Icy Punch, in Any Language


Bracketed by the Geminid meteor shower and the Winter Solstice, the December full moon bids farewell to 2013 as the smallest one of the year.

On December 17 the shrunken orb will glimmer with a hard light as much of Turtle Island bundles up and hunkers down against what is aptly named the Cold Moon. Call it that, or Big Winter (Creek, rvfo-rakko), or just plain Winter (as the Shoshone do, naming it dommo-mea'), this month the moon is earning its moniker as temperatures across much of Turtle Island dip below freezing while darkness descends and the year’s shortest day approaches.

Perhaps its size is what leads the Assiniboine of the Northern Plains to dub December’s full moon wicogandu-sungagu, "center moon's younger brother." The planetarium at Western Washington State University lists a host of names from various tribes, from the seasonal to the descriptive. For instance the Lakota and the Sioux, respectively, refer to the December full moon as wanicokan wi, “moon when the deer shed their antlers,” and “when deer shed their horns.”

In different descriptive fashion, the Hopi dub this coldest, smallest of moons the “moon of respect.” Which one would do well to remember, even if this month’s moon is, as the Shawnee tell it, washilatha kiishthwa, the "eccentric moon."

So closes the 2013 roster of full moons. The next one is the night of January 15-16. 

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