There’s something special about watching a full moon rising as it brings to light a sense of wonder and supernatural energy, inspiring art and poetry, mythology, folklore, and astrological study.  In many cultures and religions, moon gazing is an aesthetic practice with a spiritual element — a full moon symbolizing truth and enlightenment in Buddhism.  In others, a full moon evokes fear and legends of horror involving curses, vampires, ghosts and werewolves.

Full Moon Silhouettes, is a short video (by award winning photographer, filmmaker & visual effects artist, Mark Gee) of the moon rising over the Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand.  Mark shot the video in real-time, and did not manipulate or enhance the film.

 

But there’s a full moon risin’
Let’s go dancin’ in the light
We know where the music’s playin’
Let’s go out and feel the night.

Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon.
(excerpt from Harvest Moon by Neil Young)

A Harvest Moon is the full moon nearest the astronomical start of fall in the Northern Hemisphere (the autumnal equinox) and spring in the Southern Hemisphere.  During a Harvest Moon, moonrise occurs shortly after sunset for several nights, resulting in a bright moonlight that traditionally allowed farmers more undarkened time to harvest their crops.  Most years, a full Harvest Moon appears in September, but occasionally it’s the October full moon as it did 2017.  The 2018 Harvest Moon will make its appearance on September 24, and look for it on Sept 14 in 2019.

Along with the Harvest Moon come celebrations and traditions.

In Britain, giving thanks for a good harvest is a custom that goes back to pagan times, and a Harvest Festival (aka ‘Harvest Home’, ‘Harvest Thanksgiving’ or ‘Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving’) is traditionally held on a Sunday near the time of a Harvest Moon. The celebration includes singing, praying and decorating churches with baskets of fruit and produce.  Food is also collected from gardens and farms and distributed to those in need within the community or sold to raise funds for a church or charity.

Tsukimi (or Otsukimi, meaning ‘moon-viewing’, also known as Jugoya), refers to Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon. The festivities usually begin with a celebration of the full moon on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional Japanese calendar, and the waxing moon is celebrated on the 13th day of the ninth month. (These dates normally fall in September and October). The traditions of the Japanese autumn moon festivals date back a thousand years, including the still popular custom of holding harvest moon-viewing parties on the evening of the full moon (‘Tsukimi’), decorating with Japanese pampas grass (‘susuki’), and serving Tsukimi dango (white rice dumplings), taro, edamame, chestnuts, seasonal foods and sake. Seasonal produce is also displayed as an offering to the moon for an abundant harvest—sweet potatoes to the full moon; beans or chestnuts to the waxing moon

Chinese lanterns in all shapes, sizes and colors have become a beautiful symbol of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Chinese Lanterns, Marc oh! CC BY-ND 2.0

The Mid-Autumn Festival (aka ‘Moon Festival’) is a centuries old Chinese celebration of harvest, and one of the most widely celebrated in the world.  Held each year on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (this year—October 4, 2017), the Mid-Autumn Festival is an important cultural holiday in China, Vietnam and among ethnic Chinese throughout Asia, and is based on traditions of gathering of family and friends, watching the moon (a symbol of harmony and unity), giving thanks, and praying for good fortune. There are also special offerings, incense burning, lion and dragon dances, food & drink, games and activities involved in the celebrations.  The mooncake is one of the hallmarks of these traditional customs (many millions of the sweet delicacy are sold each year), but the lantern has become the beautiful, glowing symbol of the festival as different designs, colors, shapes and sizes are carried, displayed and released to float in the sky during the celebrations.  [Note: Another Chinese festival involving lanterns is the ‘Lantern Festival’ (or Spring Lantern Festival), celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the Chinese calendar and marking the last day of Chinese New Year celebrations.  It’s become a popular celebration in Western countries, and is sometimes confused with the Mid-Autumn Festival.]

 

Information/Resources:

Full Moon Zen by Kenneth Craft, HuffPost (April 28, 2016/April 29, 2017)
Full Moon For October 2017, The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Lunar effect, Full moon, Harvest Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, Tsukimi  (Wikipedia)

 Earth Gazing – Video: Earth from a vantage point in space

 

 

 

 

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Feature photo is courtesy of Gerd Altmann via Pexels CC0

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Posted by Zola Zeester

Zola is a vagabond playmaker, the On2In2™ recreation guru and primary source of inspiration for this article. Currently resides at Zeester Media HQ.