Today’s Full Moon Is the Strawberry Moon – Why It Is the “Sweetest” Moon

Strawberry Moon Over Ocean

The Next Full Moon is the Strawberry Moon, Mead Moon, Honey Moon, Vat Purnima, Poson Poya, and the LRO Moon.

The next full Moon will be on Friday afternoon, June 5, appearing opposite the Sun (in Earth-based longitude) at 3:12 PM EDT. The Moon will appear full for about 3 days around this time, from early Thursday morning into early Sunday morning.

The Moon will be close enough to opposite the Sun that it will pass through part of the partial shadow of the Earth, called a partial penumbral eclipse of the Moon. During this eclipse the Moon will not be in the sky for most of the Americas. If we could see the Moon, the slight dimming during this eclipse will not be noticeable without instrumentation. For spacecraft at the Moon such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the reduction in solar power is noticeable.

The Maine Farmer’s Almanac first published “Indian” names for the full Moons in the 1930’s. According to this Almanac, as the full Moon in June and the last full Moon of spring, the Algonquin tribes called this the Strawberry Moon. The name comes from the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries in the north-eastern United States.

Lunar Surface in Color

A color composite mosaic showing most of the Moon’s surface, based on images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, photometrically normalized. Note that small “holes” in the mosaic are due to shadows or satauration in the original observations. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

An old European name for this full Moon is the Mead Moon or the Honey Moon. Mead is a drink created by fermenting honey mixed with water, sometimes with fruits, spices, grains, or hops. In some countries Mead is also called Honey Wine (though in others Honey Wine is fermented differently than Mead). Some writings suggest that the time around the end of June was when honey was ripe and ready to be harvested from hives or from the wild, which made this the “sweetest” Moon. The word “honeymoon” traces back to at least the 1500’s in Europe. The tradition of calling the first month of marriage the “honeymoon” may be tied to this full Moon, either because of the custom of marrying in June or because the “Honey Moon” is the “sweetest” Moon of the year.

Some consider this full Moon the Rose Moon, but I think this better fits the full Moon after next on July 5. Some sources indicate the name “Rose Moon” comes from the roses that bloom in late June. Others report that the name comes from the color of the full Moon this time of year. The orbit of the Moon around the Earth is almost in the same plane as the orbit of the Earth around the Sun (only about 5 degrees off). When the Sun appears highest in the sky near the summer solstice, the full Moon opposite the Sun generally appears lowest in the sky. For Europe’s higher latitudes, the full Moon nearest the summer solstice shines through more atmosphere than at other times of the year, making it more likely to have a reddish color (for the same reasons that sunrises and sunsets are red). For 2020, the full Moon in early July is closer to the Summer Solstice and will be about 1.5 degrees lower in the sky than the full Moon in June.

Phases of the Moon

We always see the same side of the moon, because as the moon revolves around the Earth, the moon rotates so that the same side is always facing the Earth. But the moon still looks a little different every night. Sometimes the entire face glows brightly. Sometimes we can only see a thin crescent. Other times the moon seems to disappear entirely. As the bright parts of the moon appear to change shape during the month, each stage of the change is called a phase, and each phase carries its own name.
This chart shows why this happens. The center ring shows the moon as it revolves around the Earth, as seen from above the north pole. Sunlight illuminates half the Earth and half the moon at all times. But as the moon orbits around the Earth, at some points in its orbit the sunlit part of the moon can be seen from the Earth, and at other points, we can only see the parts of the moon that are in shadow. The outer ring shows what we see on the Earth during each corresponding part of the moon’s orbit.
Credit: NASA/Bill Dunford

Other seasonal names for this full Moon that I have found mentioned in various sources (sometimes with European and sometimes with Native American origins that I have not yet been able to check up on) are the Flower Moon, Hot Moon, Hoe Moon, and Planting Moon.

For Hindus this full Moon corresponds with Vat Purnima. During the 3 days of this full Moon married women will show their love for their husbands by tying a ceremonial thread around a banyan tree. The celebration is based on the legend of Savitri and Satyavan.

For Buddhists this full Moon is the Poson Poya. The Poson holiday in Sri Lanka celebrates the introduction of Buddhism in 236 BCE.

Another tribe has also given a name to this full Moon. This tribe is now geographically scattered but mostly lived in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. This tribe’s language is primarily English, but with a liberal smattering of acronyms, arcane scientific and engineering terms, and Hawaiian phrases (cheerfully contributed by the Deputy Project Manager at the time). Comprised of people from all backgrounds, many of whom have gone on to join other tribes, this tribe was devoted to the study of the Moon. This tribe calls June’s full Moon the LRO Moon, in honor of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft they launched towards the Moon 11 years ago on June 18, 2009, that is still sending home data providing new insights about our nearest neighbor in space, some of which help us to understand the history of our own planet.

In most lunisolar calendars the months change on or just after the new Moon and full Moons fall in the middle of the lunar months. This full Moon is the middle of Sivan in the Hebrew calendar. Since 12 lunar cycles are about 11 days shorter than a solar year, lunisolar calendars add a “leap” month as needed to keep in sync with the seasons. The Chinese lunisolar calendar uses solar terms to decide when to repeat a month. This full Moon is in the middle of one of these leap months, the second of two “fourth” months. In the Islamic calendar the months start with the first sighting of the waxing crescent Moon a few days after the New Moon. This full Moon is near the middle of Shawwāl.

As usual, the wearing of suitably celebratory celestial attire is encouraged in honor of the full Moon.

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