HAPPY LEAP YEAR DAY!
jeanniejeanniejeannie.co.uk BLOG Saturday 29th February 2020
Today is a Leap Year Day and a Saturday. Try not to waste it and do something spectacular, different and brilliant! Most of all enjoy iy. After all it is an extra day, don’t make it run of the mill.
Leap year: A few things about Leap Year Day Saturday 29 February
The “leap day” of 29 February exists for purely astronomical reasons, but has always prompted less scientific curiosities.
Here are 10 things to consider – for one day only.
- The leap year’s extra day is necessary because of the “messiness” of our Solar System. One Earth year (a complete orbit around the Sun) does not take an exact number of whole days (one complete spin of the Earth on its axis). In fact, it takes 365.2422 days, give or take.
- Until Julius Caesar came to power, people observed a 355-day calendar – with an extra 22-day month every two years. But it was a convoluted solution to the problem and feast days began sliding into different seasons. So, Caesar ordered his astronomer, Sosigenes, to simplify things. Sosigenes opted for the 365-day year with an extra day every four years to scoop up the extra hours. This is how the 29 February was born. It was then fine-tuned by Pope Gregory XIII (see below).
- Every fourth year is a leap year, as a rule of thumb. But that’s not the end of the story. A year that is divisible by 100, but not by 400, is not. So, 2000 was a leap year under the Gregorian calendar, as was 1600. But 1700, 1800 and 1900 are not leap years. “It seems a bit arbitrary,” says Ian Stewart, emeritus professor of mathematics at Warwick University.
- Why is February 29, not February 31, a leap year day? All the other months have 30 or 31 days, but February suffered from the ego of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus, says Stewart. Under Julius Caesar, February had 30 days, but when Caesar Augustus was emperor, he was peeved that his month – August – had only 29 days, whereas the month named after his predecessor Julius – July – had 31. “He pinched a couple of days for August to make it the same as July. And it was poor old February that lost out,” says Prof Stewart.
- The tradition of a woman proposing on a leap year has been attributed to various historical figures. One, although much disputed, was St Bridget in the 5th Century. She is said to have complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose. St Patrick then supposedly gave women a single day in a leap year to pop the question – the last day of the shortest month. Another popular story is that Queen Margaret of Scotland brought in a law setting fines for men who turned down marriage proposals put by women on a leap year. Sceptics have pointed out that Margaret was five years old at the time and living far away in Norway. The tradition is not thought to have become commonplace until the 19th Century.
It is believed that the tradition of women proposing on this day goes back to the times when the leap year day was not recognised by English law. Under this theory, if the day had no legal status, it was acceptable to break with the convention of a man proposing.
- A prayer has been written by a female cleric for people planning a leap year day marriage proposal. The prayer, for 29 February, asks for blessings on the engaged couple. It reminds them that wedding plans should not overtake preparations for a lifetime together. The prayer has been taken from Pocket Prayers of Blessing by the Venerable Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich:
“God of love, please bless N and N as they prepare for the commitment of marriage. May the plans for the wedding not overtake the more important preparation for their lifetime together. Please bless their family and friends as they prepare for this special day and may your blessing be upon them now and always. Amen.”
- The chance of being born on a leap day is often said to be one in 1,461. Four years is 1,460 days and adding one for the leap year you have 1,461. So, odds of 1/1,461.
But Stewart points out that is very slightly out, owing to the loss of the three leap years every 400 years. In any case, babies are more likely to be born at certain times of the year rather than others, due to a range of other factors, he says. Babies born on 29 February are known as “leapers” or “leaplings”.
8.Other calendars apart from the Gregorian require leap years. The modern Iranian calendar is a solar calendar with eight leap days inserted into a 33-year cycle. The Indian National Calendar and the Revised Bangla Calendar of Bangladesh arrange their leap years so that the leap day is always close to 29 February in the Gregorian calendar.
9.Explorer Christopher Columbus used the lunar eclipse of 29 February 1504 to his advantage during his final trip to the West Indies. After several months of being stranded with his crew on the island of Jamaica, relations with the indigenous population broke down and they refused to continue helping with food and provisions. Columbus, knowing a lunar eclipse was due, consulted his almanac and then gathered the native chiefs on 29 February. He told that God was to punish them by painting the Moon red. During the eclipse, he said that God would withdraw the punishment if they started co-operating again. The panicked chiefs agreed, and the Moon began emerging from its shadow.
- How do you remember if it’s a leap year? Simple: If the last two digits of the year are divisible by four (e.g. 2016, 2020, 2024…) then it’s a leap year. Century years are the exception to this rule. They must be divisible by 400 to be leap years—so, 2000 and 2400 are leap years, but 2100 will not be one. As a bonus, U.S. leap years almost always coincide with election years.
- What’s crazier than February 29th? A woman proposing to a man, says history.
You’re not the only one who thinks leap years are silly. After Pope Gregory XIII instituted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, the idea of adding February 29th every four years seemed so ridiculous that a British play joked it was a day when women should trade their dresses for “breeches” and act like men. The play was meant as satire, but some early feminists must have been inspired; by the 1700s, women were using Leap Day to propose to the men in their lives. The tradition—now called Bachelor’s Day or Sadie Hawkins Day—peaked in the early 1900s and continues today in the UK, where some retailers even offer discount packages to women popping the question.
- It’s rare to be born on Leap Day…but what about dying on Leap Day, too?
According to the World Heritage Encyclopedia, in the 1800s, the British-born James Milne Wilson, who later became the eighth premier of Tasmania, “was born on a leap day and died on a leap day.” Wilson died on February 29th, 1880, on his “17th” birthday, or aged 68 in regular years. Maybe that’s not that crazy though, since you are more likely to die on your birthday.
- Rarer still is the possibility that three children in the same family would be born on three consecutive Leap Days, but that’s exactly what happened with the Henriksen family of Norway. Heidi Henriksen was born on 2/29/1960, her brother Olav four years later on 2/29/64, and baby Leif-Martin four years after that on 2/29/68. According to many government agencies, the siblings would not legally be considered a year older until March 1st on non-leap years, but in 2020, we can officially say, “Happy Actual Birthday, leaplings!”
- Celebrate Leap Day with a rare French magazine.
If your travels take you to France, pick up a copy of the rare La Bougie du Sapeur, a French parody newspaper only published once every four years on Leap Day. Newsstand copies sell for four euro apiece, but generous investors can buy a lifetime subscription—only 100 euro per century.
- Is February 29th good luck or bad luck? Depends on who you ask!
According to an old Scottish aphorism, “leap year was ne’er a good sheep year.” The superstition that Leap Days are particularly lucky or unlucky has been debated through history and across cultures, and there’s still no clear winner. For one thing, it’s bad luck if you’re a prisoner on a one-year sentence that spans a Leap Day. Also, bad news if you work on a fixed annual salary, no extra pay for that extra day. On the other hand, Leap Day is great luck if you’re on a fixed monthly rent (one free day of living!), or if you’re Hattie McDaniel, in which case February 29th, 1940 is the day you became the first African-American to win an Oscar, for your role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind.
INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE FOR THE DAY
“No man is a failure who is enjoying life.” -William Feather
Happiness is…an extra day to do as you wish
GRANDAD’S ONE LINER JOKE OF THE DAY
Q: What do you get if you cross teachers with vampires?
A: Blood tests
Love is…something you need on life’s journey
©2020 Phil M Robinson