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Once in a Blue Moon
July 31, 2012 - Stephen Browne
A blue moon is coming in August.
Wow! What's a blue moon?
A "blue moon" means the second full moon within the space of one calendar month. In August the moon will be full on the 1st and the 31st, an astronomical event that happens on average once every 2.66 years, although in 1999 there were two blue moons within three months of each other.
By extension the expression "once in a blue moon," noted as early as 1824, has come to mean something that happens rarely.
That expression, and one other, are the sole survivors of a many "moons." Once the full moons of every month had names, sometimes several names, representative of the seasons they occurred in.
A full moon in January: Old Moon, Moon after Yule, Storm Moon.
February: Hunger Moon, Snow Moon, Chaste Moon, Wolf Moon.
March: Crow Moon, Lenten Moon, Sap Moon, Seed Moon.
April: Egg Moon, Grass Moon, Hare Moon.
May: Planter's Moon, Milk Moon.
June: Flower Moon, Rose Moon, Strawberry Moon, Honey Moon.
July: Hay Moon, Thunder Moon, Ripe Corn Moon.
August: Grain Moon, Green Corn Moon, Barley Moon, Fruit Moon.
September: Harvest Moon, Blood Moon, Fruit Moon.
October: Hunter's Moon.
November: Beaver Moon, Frosty Moon.
December: Yule Moon.
June weddings were once celebrated with mead, a drink made from fermented honey, hence the expression "honeymoon."
I vaguely remember hearing the expression "a hunter's moon," I think in an old movie. Any hunter's out there ever use this expression?
"Harvest moon" might be remembered by old song buffs from the song "Shine on Harvest Moon" debuted by the married vaudeville team Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1908, and still recorded occasionally to this day.
Oh, Shine on, shine on, harvest moon/ Up in the sky;/ I ain't had no lovin'/ Since April, January, June or July./ Snow time ain't no time to stay/ Outdoors and spoon;/ So shine on, shine on, harvest moon,/ For me and my gal./
"Blue Moon" is also the title of a popular song written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934. It has been covered by artists such as Billie Holiday, Mel Torme, Elvis Presley, doo-wop versions by The Marcels and Sha na na, Eric Clapton, and Rod Stewart.
For me though, "Blue Moon" will be forever associated with the version sung by Italian actress Valentina Cortese in the 1949 movie "Malaya," starring Jimmy Stewart and Spenser Tracy.
Jimmy Stewart plays a newspaperman in WWII who convinces the U.S. government to sign on to a plan to get vital rubber by stealing it from Japanese-occupied Malaya. He gets a friend Carnahan (Tracy) sprung from jail to help him because he's got connections in the area. One of them being a beautiful Eurasian cabaret singer Luana (Cortese.)
So Stewart and Tracy walk into this cafe where Luana is rather languidly singing "Blue Moon." She spots Tracy about half-way through the song, her eyes light up, her smile lights up the room, and she belts out the last verse with real feeling.
"Blue moon, now I'm no longer alone/ Without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own/ Without a love of my own."
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