Strawberry Moon 2018: How the Celestial Event Got Its Many Nicknames

Hint: It has more to do with fruit than you might think.

There’s a good excuse to stay up late Wednesday night: In the early hours of June 28, the full Strawberry Moon will be visible. It will appear reddish as it rises and sets and look honey-colored at its peak.

But it’s not the hue that gives the Strawberry Moon its nickname, which varies from place to place. The history behind June’s full moon has as much to do with its usefulness as it does with its beauty.

Why Is June’s Full Moon Called the Strawberry Moon?

Today, we follow a solar calendar to track days, months, and years, but our predecessors used the moon to identify seasons. The Algonquin people were the most populous and widespread Native American tribes, with a population of nearly 100,000 by the year 1600, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. They occupied today’s East Coast, along with most of Canada and part of the Midwest.

The Strawberry Moon in June signaled to the tribes that it is was time to gather strawberries, which ripen over the course of the month. Other fruits and vegetables ripen in this time period, too.

Strawberry Moon in June, 2015 in Tucson, Arizona.

Flickr / Cindy Devin

The moon’s rosy color likely added to the appeal of naming it after a bright red strawberry. The reason the moon appears reddish is that June marks the most shallow point of the moon’s arc.

Earth’s atmosphere diverts colors that aren’t red, orange, and yellow, so those are the hues we see looking into the night sky. The moon also appears slightly smaller than usual, because it will be the furthest away from Earth that it can get in orbit, but it’s difficult to notice the 14 percent difference with the naked eye. So another name for this particular Strawberry Moon is a minimoon.

What Are the Strawberry Moon’s Other Nicknames?

Of course, the moon isn’t just visible in the US, and other countries and cultures have other nicknames for the Strawberry Moon. Some modern-day revelers from across the globe call it the Hot Moon because it marks the beginning of the year’s hottest months on the northern equator. Europeans tend to call it the Rose Moon and the Honey Moon, thanks to the different shades of red and yellowish-orange that show up throughout the night.

Other harvest-themed names from Native Americans include the Green Corn Moon, from the midwest Cherokee tribe, the Crane Moon, from the southern Choctaw tribe, and the Birth Moon, from the Tlingit tribe in the northwest. But tomorrow night is a great opportunity to see the moon at its brightest and most colorful, so be sure to experience the first of many summer celestial happenings.