The full moon closest to the September or Autumnal Equinox is called the Harvest Moon. In 2024, Harvest Moon will first appear on the evening of Wednesday the 18th of September.

Harvest moons usually occur in September, however, due to the overlap between the Gregorian calendar and the lunar cycle, appears every three years in October. For example, Harvest Moon will occur on October 6 in 2025.

It's an opportunity to watch the brilliantly bright moon early in the evening, but only if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. 

The Harvest Moon in the background looking over the ready to harvest crops!
The Harvest Moon hovers over the crops ready to be harvested.

The rising of the Harvest Moon

The moon does not rise at the same time every night, it actually changes by approximately 50 minutes each evening. 

During the nights around the Harvest moon, however, this changes, and for a few evenings, the moon will rise at almost the same time.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the further from the equator, the more pronounced this phenomenon will be. 

Why is it called Harvest Moon

In the bygone days, farmers took advantage of the moon's extra light that comes soon after sunset to bring in the summer-grown crops to harvest, hence the name Harvest Moon.

It is also due to a highly scientific quirk relating to orbital distances and other complex laws of physics, at the peak of the harvest farmers could work late into the night! 

Harvest Moon marks the transition from summer into fall (also called the Equinox Moon for this reason) and the preparation for harvest to begin. Crops reach their maximum growth at this time of the year and could soon start to perish, and so the moon indicates that harvest must commence.

Who called it a Harvest Moon

The Lunar calendar allowed Native Americans to keep track of time and seasons, and was used as an ancient way of tracking the time of year. They kept track of the seasons and knew when corn was supposed to be harvested.

The full moon names come from the Algonquin tribes who lived in regions from New England to Lake Superior. The survival of their tribes would depend on the harvest and how well the crops had flourished in growth through the summer months. 

Different Names for Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon is at times associated with the September Corn Moon. Corn is usually one of the many crops harvested at this time of the year, hence the name, September Corn Moon. Interestingly, if there is going to be a full moon in September, but at the very start, then it is called a Full Corn Moon.

It is also called the Barley Moon, as it is time to harvest and thresh the ripened barley. The Native Americans grew crops that are healthy and beneficial to health and wellness.

The other synonyms of the Harvest Moon include Singing Moon, Wine Moon, and the Elk Call Moon.

These names represent the festivities and celebrations that come along with harvesting crops in the late hours of the evening due to the beautiful, bright moonlight!

Color of the Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon appears to be this beautiful bright shade of yellow, orange, and red. Now, is that the actual color of the Harvest Moon? The moon appears close to these shades of yellow to orange to bright red when you glare at it from close to the horizon. When you do that, you are looking at the moon from the thickness of the Earth's atmosphere, and thus the color changes! 

An almost Dark Red Shade of the Harvest Moon shining bright in the Night Sky
The Harvest Moon in its glorious shade of Orange Red!

Festivals associated with the Harvest Moon

The brighter moonlight associated with the Harvest Moon allowed farmers in ancient times to work for longer and much later into the evenings. For this reason, it was celebrated by rural communities with festivals and other celebrations. Some of them are:

Mid-Autumn Festival

This is also known as the "Moon Festival" and "Mooncake Festival", celebrated in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and Vietnam. It is so venerated in China that it is commemorated with the same enthusiasm as the Chinese New Year. Families share a special cake called a Mooncake with each other, and give them away as gifts to friends. They also remember the folk story of Chang'e, the Goddess of the moon, and her husband Hou Yi. 

A mooncake on a background of white
Mooncakes, enjoyed by many to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival

Harvest Moon Benefit Festival

This is celebrated in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio every year to mark the Harvest Moon. People enjoy this music festival with family and friends. The purpose of this is to also feed the homeless and hungry.

Festivities at the time of the Harvest Moon with music and lights
Celebrations to mark the arrival of the Harvest Moon

Many Other Festivals

Communities around the world celebrate the Harvest Moon with small festivals, walks, trails and activities. it is definitely worth checking in your area to find out what events are taking place. 

Neil Young and the Harvest Moon

The Harvest moon was indeed very close to the heart of a very influential songwriter and guitarist of his generation called Neil Young. He is known for recording all-time favorites such as "Old Man", "Heart of Gold" and the much loved "Harvest Moon".

The moon is a big deal to Neil Young, as it turns up in 28 of his songs! He uses it to guide him and is more likely to take on a project if it coincides with a full moon. The image of the harvest moon brings in the idea of changing seasons, and the passing of time.

The lyrics to "Harvest Moon" signify a relaxing summer evening, picturing a bright orange moon in the sky, and dancing with a loved one under the light of the Harvest Moon. Again, which brings us to the fact that the Harvest Moon shines bright!

Neil Young recorded this song in the year 1992. It is assumed that the song was written about his ex-wife, whom he was married for a long time, and how he still missed her.

A peek into some lyrics would confirm the love he still had,

"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"

So it seems like the Harvest moon not only is a sign of hope, transition, and bounty in the new crop, but also pulls at the heartstrings of many people in different ways.

Next up is Hunter's Moon in October.