Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Harvest Moon - September 29, 2012

There's an old song that goes:

"Shine one, shine on Harvest Moon,
Up in the sky
I ain't had no lovin' since January, February
June or July
Snow time, ain't no time to stay outdoors and spoon
So Shine on Shine on Harvest Moon..."

But do you know what the Harvest Moon actually is?

Of course, the Harvest Moon hasn't always been associated with popular song.  There's a tradition that states the Harvest Moon was important to farmers who used the extra hours of light to harvest more of their crops.

Moonrise is one of those things that comes a bit later every night, except at the time of the Hunter Moon and the Harvest Moon.  The Harvest Moon is that full moon which occurs closest to the Autumnal Equinox.  For several days, the moon will rise at about the same time each evening, right at sunset. This means there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise.

It may be that these fall full moons leave such a lasting impression because they rise so large and luminous and hang low on the horizon.  I think that I associate October full moons with this more, perhaps because there are fewer leaves and my view of the sky is less obstructed.

There's a Harvest Moon coming up this weekend. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the Autumnal Equinox was on September 22.  Therefore, the full moon on September 29-30 is officially the Harvest Moon.  Even if you're not an avid skywatcher, the Harvest Moon is too beautiful to miss.

To my mind, the song is just as good an explanation of why the Harvest Moon is important.  Sure, the farmers are happy to have a bit more light to work in the fields, but harvest is also a harbinger of colder temperatures and the expectation of wintry weather.  So yeah, snow time ain't no time to stay outdoors and spoon, so you'd better get your cuddling in by the Harvest Moon.  

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