When to See December's Full Moon at Peak Brilliance

Photo:  Voraorn Ratanakorn (Shutterstock)
Photo: Voraorn Ratanakorn (Shutterstock)

December’s Full Moon will grace us puny humans with its majestic presence on Dec. 7. Often called “the Cold Moon” (because it tends to be cold this time of year, huh), the last full moon of 2022 will be at peak luminescence at 11:09 p.m. EST.

As if aware of its “last of the year status,” December’s moon rides high across the sky. Its elevated trajectory means it spends longer above the horizon than most moons. Showoff.

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Winter Solstice: The Real New Year’s Day

December is also astronomically notable for being the month with the longest night. Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 4:48 p.m. EST is the moment of Winter Solstice in the Northern hemisphere. That’s when winter begins, the sun reaches the Tropic of Capricorn, and the cursed night walkers lurking among us celebrate the day with least sunlight of the year.

In the ancient Druidic tradition (and in other cultures too), the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of the new year and was and celebrated with festivals, parties, and merry-making. Unlike our arbitrary “New Year’s Day” of Jan. 1, the solstice is a cosmic certainty, and its celebration of the death of the “old sun” and the rebirth of the “new one” makes way more sense than just picking a random day in January

Speaking of random, here’s an awesome moon fact

Have you ever heard anyone explain away an unusual ocurence by saying, “There must be a full moon tonight?” This is an expression of the ancient belief that the moon, or light from it, can drive people mad. It’s where we get the word “lunacy,” and plenty of people believe in it today.

But tons of recent studies of the phenomenon seem to prove conclusively that crime, psychiatric admissions, and suicides do not, in fact, increase during a full moon. It still seems strange that so many people across different cultures believe it to be true. But there is a possible explanation for why the moon might have once been indirectly to blame for madness but isn’t any longer.

The theory is that before the near-universal adoption of electric lights, the moon had a greater effect on people’s sleep-wake cycle. At the time of a full moon, nighttime was brighter, leading to sleep disturbances and disruptions that could have been “sufficient to induce mania/hypomania in susceptible bipolar patients and seizures in patients with seizure disorders.” That, plus the fact that werewolves have been driven nearly to extinction in modern times.

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