For the first time since 1977, the moon is going to be full on Christmas. Of course that is also the same year the original Star Wars movie was released. How fun! If you are under 38 years old, this is the first full moon on Christmas in your lifetime. The next one won’t occur until 2034, I shudder to think how old I will be by then.
While the release of Star Wars was big, there was another important full Christmas moon in American history on Dec. 25, 1776. Historians tell us this was the night George Washington and his Continental Army crossed the Delaware River from Pennsylvania into New Jersey. If there were clear skies, the army used the moonlight to help with the crossing.
You likely have heard that the Native Americans gave each of the full moons a name. This month it’s called the cold moon, but within some tribes, this moon was called the Full Long Nights Moon.
December is the month with the longest nights and when cold typically establishes its winter grip. The Long Night Moon this month takes a very high trajectory across the sky because of the position it has in relation to the sun.
The show begins Christmas Eve at 4:02 p.m. when the moon rises in the eastern sky. I’ll talk about the weather conditions for this in a moment. The moon will be 99.7 percent full at that time, becoming 100 percent full at 6:11 a.m. Christmas morning before setting at 6:55 a.m. in the west.
On Christmas evening, the moon rises full at 4:59 p.m. This mean it will be visible all night on Christmas before setting Saturday morning, December 26, at 7:47 a.m.
Will The Weather Cooperate?
There is going to be a frontal system passing through the area Christmas Eve, and while we will be enjoying record warmth, there will be a lot clouds. I think the moonrise on Christmas Eve will likely be obscured by clouds. If the front keeps moving, you should see the full moon emerge during the night, and moonset Christmas morning will be a nice show. The moon is full as it sets.
It will turn less warm for Christmas and skies will clear as high pressure builds into the region. This means the full moonrise on Christmas evening and the setting moon Saturday morning will be visible. Notice how high the moon is Christmas night. If we had snow cover to reflect some of the light it would really be stunning.
Finally, while the next one of these events is in 19 years, there are three more before the turn of the century. I won’t see all of them, but maybe you will. They are in 2053, 2072 and 2091.
You can follow me on Twitter @growingwisdom for more weather updates.