2020 has still decided to give up tiny gifts in the midst of all the fuckery. Here’s one that will excite you and your kids, especially if you have someone in your house interested in the solar system: There will be a blue moon on Halloween.
We are excited about it in my house. My youngest has a telescope in his room and during the solar eclipse of 2017, he made sure we were watching it live (through three pairs of sunglasses, after I told him one million times not to look directly at it) … and then he watched it again afterward on television. He talked about it for months, and he’s still obsessed with anything relating to the sky.
This year Halloween is on a Saturday, which makes it easier to stay up late for the best view. And even if you won’t be celebrating your usual Halloween festivities because of the pandemic (booooo), telling scary stories under the blue moon just might make up for it a little bit.
Lest they’re disappointed that the moon is its regular color, you might want to explain to your kids that the moon isn’t actually blue (although how cool would that be?). The only time the moon will literally look blue in color is on very rare occasions when large amounts of smoke or ash from devastating wildfires or massive volcanic eruptions filter out the red light in the atmosphere. So you can tell that kids that really, we’re lucky the moon doesn’t look blue!
Why is it called a “blue moon” then? No one knows for sure, but the earliest use of the phrase itself is hundreds of years old and was used to indicate that something was absurd: i.e., “He’d argue that the moon was blue.” From there, it morphed into meaning something which, like a blue moon, would never happen. But then, natural disasters like the eruption of the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa in 1883 happened, and the moon did look blue — so the phrase came to mean something that happened rarely. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Once in a blue moon” (I use it often when people ask me how much I shave my legs).
It’s a rare event, happening every two and a half to three years. Scientifically speaking, a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month (normally there’s just one per month), and is also used to refer to the third full moon in a season that has four. Double blue moons can happen, too, when the same calendar year has two blue moons; the next double blue moon will be in 2037.
But as rare as a blue moon is, a full moon on Halloween is an even rarer event; according to an article in the Farmer’s Almanac, it happens roughly once every 19 years! Not only that, but the last time there was a Halloween full moon visible in all time zones — as there will be this year — was in 1944! After this, the next four Halloween full moons will appear in 2039, 2058, 2077, and 2096.
There’s a magical element to this too. According to an article in Learn Religions, there are some people who believe the blue moon is a time of great growth and in a woman’s life. Wiccan and Pagan religions believe it’s an incredibly powerful time and can enhance intuition or psychic abilities. So, if you’ve been wanting to hold a ceremony or do a cleansing ritual, Halloween 2020 might just be the perfect night to harness the power of the blue moon.
I think most of us agree we might as well try it because it’s not like we have a lot to lose — things can only start looking up from here.
However you choose to observe the rarity of the blue moon, the Internet is full of ways to learn and celebrate the phenomenon, especially with your kiddos. NASA’s Space Place has a ton of kid-friendly info and activities (some are edible, like no-bake moon cookies and Oreo moon phases – yum!).
For kids ages 6-10, New York’s Hudson River Museum is offering a free online virtual planetarium show centered around the blue moon from 11:30am-12pm on Halloween – just make sure you register in advance.
Be sure to crank up some blue moon tunes to accompany your festivities. The song “Blue Moon,” written in 1934 as the intro to a radio program, has been famously redone by the likes of Elvis Presley, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, The Marcels, and Frank Sinatra.
It’s the perfect time try a moon-themed project with your kids, too. This video from Kennedy Space Center, for example, demonstrates how to make your own lunar lander together.
There are also educational videos that you can sit down and watch with your kids to get them excited about the event on Halloween night. An informative video that will teach them some facts about the moon — like the fact it takes about three days just to travel to the moon — may be the distraction you all need this year. (And as a bonus, it totally counts as virtual school time!)
My favorite one was learning about the phases of the moon. You can also make your own poster (this project involved bubbles, so basically it’s a win) showing the different phases of the moon. I think this would look awesome hung on the wall and each night when the sky is clear, you can follow the phases of the moon along with your poster.
This year, Halloween doesn’t have to be a total letdown. Stock up on your favorite candy, have the kids dress up anyway, and make a poster while you are waiting for the moon to come up.
And while you’re at it, try your hand at setting positive intentions for the end of 2020. Maybe if we all do it during a blue moon, we can turn this ship around. We’ll take what we can get, right?