A friend on FaceBook sent me the above image and it looked like something I’d want to blog about. Because, Pink Moon. But it turns out that this image may be a bit misleading, as far as what the moon will actually look like on April 4th. When I hit the Google to get more information for the post, the first item that came up was from Snopes.com, the famous urban legend debunking website. Check it out.
Origins: March 2014 saw the introduction of this social media posting promoting the upcoming occurrence of a “full pink moon” on April 15th, 2014. It is true in an obscure, specific sense that April 2014 will bring us a “pink moon,” but that phenomenon is not the least bit unusual, nor will the moon literally appear to be pink (or any other non-standard color) to viewers on Earth.
As noted in the Farmer’s Almanac, some Native American tribes assigned unique names to full moons based upon the time of year in which they took place as a method of tracking the passage of seasons:
Native Americans full Moon names were created to help different tribes track the seasons. Think of it as a “nickname” for the Moon!
The early Native Americans did not record time by using the months of the Julian or Gregorian calendar. Many tribes kept track of time by observing the seasons and lunar months, although there was much variability. For some tribes, the year contained 4 seasons and started at a certain season, such as spring or fall. Others counted 5 seasons to a year. Some tribes defined a year as 12 Moons, while others assigned it 13. Certain tribes that used the lunar calendar added an extra Moon every few years, to keep it in sync with the seasons.
Each tribe that did name the full Moons (and/or lunar months) had its own naming preferences. Some would use 12 names for the year while others might use 5, 6, or 7; also, certain names might change the next year. A full Moon name used by one tribe might differ from one used by another tribe for the same time period, or be the same name but represent a different time period. The name itself was often a description relating to a particular activity/event that usually occurred during that time in their location.
Colonial Americans adopted some of the Native American full Moon names and applied them to their own calendar system (primarily Julian, and later, Gregorian).
As noted above, the nomenclature used for various full moons was not standardized and varied from tribe to tribe, but the Algonquin tribes (who lived in regions from New England to Lake Superior) identified a full moon occurring in April as a “Pink Moon” not because of its color, but due to its coinciding with the first appearance of the moss pink flowering plant (Phlox subulata, also known as creeping phlox, moss phlox, wild ground phlox, or mountain phlox), a harbinger of Spring:
This full Moon heralded the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox — one of the first spring flowers. It is also known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon.
Technically the term “Pink Moon” refers to the full moon that will be visible throughout most of the week of April 13-19, but the April 15 date coincides with the occurrence of a total lunar eclipse, during which the moon could take on “a dramatically colorful appearance, ranging from bright orange to blood red.” April’s “Pink Moon” is also the Paschal Full Moon that determines the date of Easter.
Thanks to Dick Christian for the Tip!