Once in a Blue Moon: The Meaning Behind the Phrase

We’ve all heard it before, here and there, usually to indicate that there’s a fat chance something is going to happen. As kids, it may have been used when your parents would finally stop for food on the way home instead of telling you, “we have food at home” (it happened once in a Blue Moon). And more than once, we’ve heard a love ballot where a lonely someone is looking up to the Blue Moon, and then voilà, things start to look up for them. 


The phrase has nestled its way into pop culture; becoming widespread after a National Public Radio Broadcast in January of 1980, to then make appearances in things like the Kids’ World Almanac (basically a complex calendar with lots of important dates, stats, information about the stars, etc.), trivial pursuit and even finishing off the 1980’s with a New Year’s Eve Blue Moon.

But does this phrase have any significance or meaning to it? Like is the Moon ever actually blue? This phrase’s history is a little chaotic, in the sense that there is no clear point of origin, even though it hasn’t been around for all that long (or so we think). Currently, if you were to look it up on google, you would quickly learn one of three things:


1. Sorry kiddos, the Moon will not be turning a blushing blueberry blue (but just imagine how pretty that would be!)


2. The "Blue Moon" is the second Full Moon that occurs in a single calendar month.


3. That the "Blue Moon" is an extra Full Moon that is added into the expected three Full Moons per season as we usually see a total of 12 lunar (full Moons) per year. It's added in 3/4 to ensure that the fun names for each month's full Moon are not messed up (Full Harvest Moon, Blueberry Full Moon, etc.)


And maybe 4. A gin-based cocktail that you enjoy... once in... well, you know the rest.

Taking a look at those points – the main message to gather it that the term seems to be synonymous with being uncommon regardless of when it’s occurring. And it makes sense considering we see these “Blue Moons” only once every 2 to 3 years. 

As for the history, groups of people like the Egyptians who loved the Moon and would synch up special events and religious festivals with the lunar calendar even most likely weren’t turning down dates by commenting, “sure when the Moon is blue!” or using the term in any sense. Fast forward through the medieval ages: nope, nothing there either other than a possible mention that people might have been saying “the Moon is blue” in the same way they would say “the Moon is made of cheese,” all to prove that no one was that silly actually to believe it.

Otherwise, based on extensive research, it looks like the first mention comes in 1937 in a Maine Farmers’ Almanac (that same detailed calendar already mentioned – but for Farmers’!), but it doesn’t define the Blue Moon as the second Full Moon in a month or that it’s an extra out of the regular 3-Moon-per-season.

Where does that bring us then? It means that the true meaning and origin of the Blue Moon is still up in the air; if we can’t trace the history, then we can adopt its current and most popular meaning, that the Blue Moon is a rare phenomenon that should be celebrated and cherished. And that it’s a Full Moon at a time we weren’t expecting one! 

Here at Moonglow, we are all about the unique moments that make up our lives – and we would never pass up the opportunity to celebrate a Blue Moon. That’s why we are going to be will be running a special “Once in a Blue Moon” giveaway the week of October 26th; it will be your chance to win something amazing. Head on over to our IG page for more details!