February's full moon falls on Saturday 27th this 2021, it has many traditional names from many cultures. In the deep frozen lands with snow and ice settled in for many months now, the traditional moon names reflected the foods used to survive and offer a sense of abundance.
Hunger Moon, Little Famine Moon, Bony Moon, Bone Moon, Snow Moon it seems that all the names lament the scarcity of food during this month. The name was always for the same reason, the frozen land yet to yield anything to eat and because of the cold or depth of snow, wild game was often scarce.
Hunger Moon, is the one I seem to most identify with as I sit here in Alberta and my family all still living in the Northwest Territories with temperatures ranging anywhere from -35 to -48 for the past two weeks.
Before refrigeration and wide-scale shipping of foods, hunger was a real threat by the end of a long winter. Agricultural farming peoples and also the hunter-gatherer societies subsisted on very little after months of bitter cold. Now perhaps in 2021, it may be scarcity based on financial income.
So what foods did many of our ancestors have to eat?
There is hope. Lots of hope.
By eating seasonally, we can all access nutritionally dense foods and at a fair price.
To eat seasonally now seems a bit far fetched as we can choose a pineapple or fresh tomatoes at our local grocery store. Here in Alberta we have year-round farmer's markets and can choose seasonally grown or storage foods from local farms. When eating this way it feels right, not just in our pocketbook but by supporting local farmers and the nutritional make-up of each food item. The vegetables available right now, and some fruit - apples are still available and traditionally in some cold rooms, contain less sugars than let's say a pineapple.
The vegetables available this time of year are our root vegetables. Our ancestors worked hard to prepare for this month, this season, and this final stretch of freezing weather tested their cold room reserves. The root cellar of a well-prepared farmhouse might still hold some beets, potatoes, turnips, onions, winter squash, and other various root vegetables. Perhaps dry beans would be part of their storage. There may have been some smoked ham, salted pork or fish, canned or corned beef. Fresh green vegetables would be nearly impossible to find, but a good old crock of sauerkraut might still be providing some much needed probiotics and delicious flavors.
Here is my list of 15 nutrient rich and seasonally available root cellar vegetables:
Dry Chaga Mushroom
Naturally Smoked Bacon or Fish
Naturally Fermented Sauerkraut
These foods taste wonderful!
They are nutritious.
They make your diet more interesting.
They are affordable.
And some of them help small scale farmers operate throughout the year.
Not only do they help us return to eating what is seasonally available but they remind us of what simple foods can nourish or bodies, minds and connections. They remind us that we are collectively in this together, our farmers, our communities, our families.
The Hopi (peaceful ones) First Nations people originally in the Arizona state, are considered one of the oldest living cultures in the world, highly developed with an elaborate ceremonial cycle, complex social organization, and advanced agricultural system. The Hopi called this February moon, Powamuya -the Purification Moon. It is interesting that the word February comes from the Latin phrase Februarius mensis, meaning "the month of Februa." Februa was a Roman festival of purification that was celebrated every February 15th, and so February was the month (moon) of februa (purification). In the Christian calendar, the period of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls around this time of year and lasts for forty days leading up to Easter. Lent is also a time of purification, of fasting, and of prayer. It is a time of intentional, conscious hunger.
Lent begins each year on Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday. This year Lent will start on February 17th, 2021; and if you are following the 40 days tradition, Lent will then end on Holy Saturday, April 3rd, 2021.
Lent can be helpful for families, in the same way, that Advent helps parents prepare their children for Christmas. The season of Lent provides an opportunity for families to strengthen discipline together. Rather than engaging in the distraction of the baskets and egg hunts, Lent can help your family focus on the real meaning of Easter and sacrifice. It is a collective time of rooting ourselves in ceremony and spring cleaning to say.
And of course eating winter produce in winter... yes in winter.. helps me reconnect with the Earth's rhythms and with the seasonal reality of my ancestors. It reminds me that to everything there is a season and a time.
It helps me let go of my desire to have whatever I want, whenever I want it, instantly.
It helps me appreciate what has been given and to accept it gratefully.
A long night in the Hunger Moon will be warmed and comforted by a beautiful and flavorful bowl of Borscht. Eating it with a chunk of salty cheese on a homemade slice of sourdough.
Eating like this is no sacrifice at all, just a return to the simplicity and beauty of eating with wisdom and appreciation.
I have discovered that I am not the only one in this great Canadian land of plenty who is hungry, deeply hungry for a connection.
And I have also come to discover that us feeling satisfied, well fed, and blessed is readily available with our traditional foods. Even so, our hunger will return, day after day, moon after moon.
May we acknowledge that there is a time of purification and hunger and want, and yet be comforted with the knowledge that spring will soon be here, flowers, more sunlight, celebrations and the natural flow of energy is beginning to awake.
And may we remember that after the Hunger Moon comes the Sap/Sugar Moon, and that is sweet consolation indeed.
Homemade Crock-pot Chicken Stock/Broth