What is the “harvest moon,” and why is it special?
The harvest moon is the full moon nearest to the autumnal equinox. This usually falls in September, but it can also fall in October. Usually, the moon will rise around 50 minutes later than it did the night before. But during the harvest moon, it rises around the same time every evening. Sometimes it feels as though there is a week of full moons. By why is it considered special, particularly by Irish people?
During the harvest moon, there is an abundance of bright moonlight early in the evening. All throughout history, and even to this day, this additional moonlight is an aid to farmers and their assistants when bringing in the harvest. But these rural communities have to work fast: by the time the moon has reached the last quarter, it resumes its normal behaviour.
The celebration of the harvest moon originated in Europe. They rejoiced in the fact that just when days were getting shorter, the harvest moon arrived to extend the hours that harvesting could be done.
The harvest-moon effect is less noticeable the farther south you go. But going north makes the Harvest Moon more extreme. Rejoice Europeans!
Europeans aren’t the only ones who are loving the extra moon time. The Chinese also love a good harvest moon festival, although, they call it a “mid-autumn festival.” Their celebrations include games and the scoffing of “mooncakes.” Typical mooncakes are round pastries, with a rich thick filling usually made from red bean or lotus seed paste. It may contain yolks from salted duck eggs. Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by Chinese tea.
But back to Ireland. If you are involved in farming, we salute you for your hard work at this time. Get out there and get that harvest in!