The Cherokee calendar is traditionally defined as a Lunar calendar marked by 13 moon cycles of 28 days.[note 1] Each cycle was accompanied by a ceremony. In order to rectify the Cherokee calendar with that of the Julian calendar, these cycles were reduced to 12. The seasonal round of ceremonies was integral to Cherokee society. It was considered an important spiritual element for social cohesion and a way to bring all the Cherokee clans together.
The Cherokee, like many other Native tribes, used a turtle’s back pattern of scales to determine their calendar cycle. The scales around the edge added up to 28, the same number of days as in a lunar cycle, while the center contained 13 larger scales, representing the 13 moon cycles of a year.
Thirteen seasonal moon ceremonies
Cherokee priests, known as ᎠᏂᎫᏔᏂ or A-ni-ku-ta-ni, defined the 13 ceremonies as listed below. The common names in English are listed followed by their names in Cherokee syllabics, the Cherokee name's transcription in the Latin alphabet, and a literal translation of the Cherokee name for some of the moons in parenthesis.
- Cold Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎧᎾᏬᎦ) Nv-da Ka-na-wo-ga
- Bone Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎪᎳ) Nv-da Ko-la (So little food the people eat bone marrow soup)
- Wind Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎤᏃᎴ) Nv-da U-no-le (Winds prepare the land for renewal)
- Flower Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎠᏥᎷᏍᎩ) Nv-da A-tsi-lu-s-gi (Flowers bloom and the earth is renewed)
- Planting Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎦᏢᏍᎦ) Nv-da Ga-hlv-sga (Putting it in a hole)
- Green Corn Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᏎᎷᎢᏤᎢᏳᏍᏗ) Nv-da Se-lu-i-tse-i-yu-s-di (The corn is up)
- Corn in Tassel Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎤᏥᏣᏔ) Nv-da U-tsi-dsa-ta (the corn is showing a tassel)
- Ripe Corn Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᏎᎷᎤᏩᏅᏌ) Nv-da Se-lu-u-wa-nv-sa
- End of Fruit Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎤᏓᏔᏅᎠᎩᏍᏗ ᎤᎵᏍᏛ) Nv-da U-da-ta-nv-a-gi-s-di U-li-s-dv
- Nut Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎤᏓᏔᏅ) Nv-da U-da-ta-nv
- Harvest Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᏥᎠᎶᎭ) Nv-da Tsi-yah-lo-ha
- Hunting Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎦᏃᎭᎵᏙᎭ) Nv-da Ga-no-ha-li-do-ha
- Snow Moon – (ᏅᏓ ᎫᏘᎭ) Nv-da Gu-ti-ha (First snowfall)
Cherokee names for Julian calendar months
With the expansion of Euro-American influences in North America, the Cherokee adapted their calendar to the widely accepted Julian calendar. As such the 13-moon phase calendar was gradually replaced by a 12-month calendar. However, the months were still associated with ceremonies and are still practiced by traditional Cherokee today.
- January – ᎤᏃᎸᏔᏂ or ᎤᏃᎸᏔᎾ - U-no-lv-ta-ni - Cold Moon
- February - ᎧᎦᎵ – Ka-ga-li - Bony Moon
- March - ᎠᎾᏱᎵᏒ or ᎠᏅᏱ – A-na-yi-li-s-v - Windy Moon
- April - ᎫᏬᏂ or ᎧᏬᏂ – Gu-wo-ni - Flower Moon
- May - ᎫᏬᏂ or ᎧᏬᏂ – A-na-s-gv-ti - Planting Moon
- June - ᏕᎭᎷᏱ – De-ha-lu-yi - Green Corn Moon
- July - ᎫᏰᏉᏂ – Gu-ye-quo-ni - Ripe Corn Moon
- August - ᎦᎶᏂ – Ga-lo-ni - End of Fruit Moon
- September - ᏚᎵᏍᏗ – Du-li-s-di - Nut Moon
- October - ᏚᏂᏃᏗ – Du-ni-no-di - Harvest Moon
- November - ᏅᏓᏕᏆ – Nv-da-de-qua - Trading Moon
- December - ᎥᏍᎩᏱ – V-s-gi-yi - Snow Moon
Below is a list of months as they appeared in ethnological studies and books of the Cherokee people from 1894 into the late 20th century, with Julian calendar name followed by Cherokee names and finally the meanings and associations:
- January: Unolvtana or Unâlatŭni meaning "windblown"
- February: Kagaʔli or Gŭgăli Bone Moon, "month when the stars and moon are fixed in the heavens"
- March: Anvhyi, referring to strawberries (anŭ)
- April: Kawohni, or Kùwáni meaning "duck" as in "when the ducks return", "ducks swim in ponds month"
- May: Anisgvti, Ansgvti, "planting moon" month of strawberries or making pottery (ŭntĭ),
- June: Dehaluyi, "green corn moon," Green Corn ceremony, blackberry month
- July: Kuyegwona, "ripe corn moon," huckleberry month
- August: Gaʔloni, end of fruit moon, wild grapes month, refers to drying up of the streams
- September: Dulisdi, nut moon, translation unknown, Bounding Bush Feast
- October: Dunihidi, Duninhdi, harvestime month, Great New Moon Ceremony
- November: Nvdadequa, Nvdadeqwa, big moon month 
- December: Vsdgiyi, Vskihyi, snow moon, translation unknown
Significance of each month
January - Unolvtani - Cold Moon
- Significance: Personal and Ritual Observance, fasting and personal purification
- During the Cold Moon, Cherokee would start preparing for upcoming new seasons. They would repair old tools for planting and build new ones. The elders would use this time to teach the younger ones the old ways and stories about the ancestors. The "Cold Moon Dance" took place to signify the ending of one cycle and beginning of a new cycle of seasons. Hearth fires were put out and new ones lit (usually carried out by the priests).
February - Kagali - Bony Moon
- Significance: A time to celebrate the dead
March - Anuyi - Windy Moon
- Significance: Traditional the "First New Moon" of the new cycle
- It is the official beginning of the new planting season. The Sacred Fire had been kept burning in a pit in the council house all winter but during this moon the fire was lit in the center for all the village to see. Kanati, the First Man created by Unethlana, the "Apportioner", is widely used to portray this moon phase. Kinati is the one who taught the people how to hunt. There was a feast called the "Feast of the Deer" to celebrate this story.
April - Kawoni - Flower Moon
- Significance: First flowers of year bloom
- The first plants start to blossom. The herbal plants that taught man how to cure the sickness brought on by animals comes out. New births are also recorded. Streams and rivers come alive. Observances to the "Long Man"(river) take place during this time. A dance called the "Knee Deep Dance" of the water frog happens during this cycle.
May - Anasgvti - Planting Moon
- Significance: Fields are being prepared to plant
June - Dehaluyi - Green Corn Moon
- Significance: Corn grows a "tassel"
July - Guyequoni - Ripe Corn Moon
- Significance: First foods are ready
August - Galoni - Fruit Moon
- Significance: Foods of trees and bushes were gathered.
September - Dulisdi - Nut Moon
- Significance: Ripe corn is harvested
- The "Ripe Corn Festival" is held during the early part of this phase in honor of Selu, the First Woman and the one who gave the people corn. The "Brush Feast Festival" also takes place during this month. All the nuts and remaining fruits from the trees and bushes were gathered at this time. Nut breads were made for the festivals. Hunting was significantly increased.
October - Duninodi - Trading Moon
- Significance: Month of thankfulness
- Two festivals took place during this month, the traditional "Harvest Festival" and the "Great Moon Festival". Both were festivals celebrating the success of the year and offering thanks to the animals, plants and all living things of the fields. The Cherokee also thanked Unethlana, the "Apportioner" during this time.
November - Nvdadaequa - Trading Moon
- Significance: "new friends made"
- This was the time of year when the Cherokees traded among their various towns. They also traded with neighboring tribes and even some distant tribes as far away as Canada, Middle America and South America. Traditional time of the "Friendship Festival". All wrongs were forgiven except for murder which was taken care of by the Blood Law. The festival celebrates the world before it became "selfish and greedy". Supplies and goods were given to the needy among the people to help the get through the winter.
December - Vsgiyi - Snow Moon
- Significance: storing goods for the winter and coming new cycle
- Spring, Gagéyl, "near the summer," Gi-la-go-ge (ᎩᎳᎪᎨ)
- Summer, Gagi, Go-ge-yi (ᎪᎨᏱ)
- Early Autumn, Gúyû 
- Late Autumn, Ulăgăhûstû (refers to falling of the leaves), U-la-go-hv-s-di (ᎤᎳᎪᎲᏍᏗ)
- Winter, Gâlû, Go-la (ᎪᎳ)
Comparison with other calendars
The traditional Cherokee moon cycle of 28 days differs from the astronomical synodic month (the time it takes for the moon to return to the same phase) of approximately 29.5 days. In this respect, it differs from many other traditional lunar calendars, which use synodic months. However, the traditional Cherokee definition of a lunar month as consisting of exactly 28 days is identical to that formerly used in English common law.
- The traditional definition of a moon cycle, however, is shorter than the synodic month by approximately one and a half days; see "Comparison with other calendars" below
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