Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we call the full moon closest to the autumn equinox the Harvest Moon. Depending on your time zone, 2018’s autumn equinox for the Northern Hemisphere came on September 22 or 23. And the September full moon comes on the night of September 24 for the Americas, and on September 25 for much of the rest of the world. Thus, for the Northern Hemisphere, this upcoming full moon – the full moon closest to our autumn equinox – is our Harvest Moon. For the Southern Hemisphere, the Harvest Moon always comes in March or April. Harvest Moon is just a name. In some ways, it’s like any other full moon name. But these autumn full moons do have special characteristics, related to the time of moonrise. Nature is particularly cooperative in giving us full-looking moons near the horizon after sunset, for several evenings in a row, around the time of the Harvest Moon.
How did the Harvest Moon get its name? The shorter-than-usual lag time between moonrises around the full Harvest Moon means no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise for days in succession. In the days before tractor lights, the lamp of the Harvest Moon helped farmers to gather their crops, despite the diminishing daylight hours. As the sun’s light faded in the west, the moon would soon rise in the east to illuminate the fields throughout the night. Who named the Harvest Moon? That name probably sprang to the lips of farmers throughout the Northern Hemisphere, on autumn evenings, as the Harvest Moon aided in bringing in the crops. The name was popularized in the early 20th century by the song below. Shine On Harvest Moon By Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth (1903) Shine on, 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, For me and my gal.