The “leap day” exists but only for purely astronomical reasons and nothing else. At the same time its existence burdens your lives because the month of February is longer every four years. It means that it makes you work one more day which is not that good. 😀 But for people like me (leaplings), who were born on February 29, it’s a true feast because we expect it for such a long time. Yes, believe me, we do. 😀 So, don’t be so skeptical but regard the extra day in February as a blessing – you work one day more but you also live one day more. 😉
What are the scientific and “historic“ roots of the day? Why does it have to exist at all and why was the second month of the year “rewarded with one more day” or “robbed”? How and when do creatures like me celebrate their birthday? These are the few things I will write about in this post. If you already know the answers, it is not necessary for you to continue reading. 🙂
Sooooo ….. Why is this day necessary? The answer is – because of the “messiness” of our Solar System. You know that one year of our planet is, actually, equal to one complete orbit around the Sun. At the same time the Earth spins on its axis. Right? That’s why the number of the whole days of the Earth year isn’t 365 but 365.2422 and this extra day is added to it every leap year. And who decided so? 😀
Many, many centuries ago people have a calendar consisting of 355 days and they added an extra 22-day month every two years. But it wasn’t a solution to them because it messed up their feasts. The latter started sliding into different seasons and people got confused. That was the reason why Julius Caesar ordered his astronomer to make the calendar simpler. Sosigenes dealt with the situation. He chose to invent a calendar that contained a year of 365 days. He decided to add the extra hours to every fourth year. This way, the 29th of February “was born”.
There is no leap day at the century marks unless the century is evenly divisible by 4. Or in other words explained, a year that is divisible by 100 but not by 400 isn’t a blessed year. 🙂 For instance, 2000 was a leap year because 20 is evenly divisible by 4 (and 2000 is evenly divisible by 400) but 1900, 1800, 1700, etc., weren’t because 19 isn’t evenly divisible by 4 (and the “divison-by-400-rule” applies as well). I will open a bracket here. What conclusion could we reach? Leap year babies are extremely rare, indeed, and there is no doubt about it. 🙂 (I am humble, humble, humble 😀 ) Why? Due to the mathematical calculations above as well as due to the fact that the possibility of being born namely on that day is 0.0684% or 1 in 1461 (you know that a leap day is once in four years, so 1 out of 3 x (365) +366= 1461). Ufff …. Let me stop. Maths comes too much. 😀 Bracket closed. Now back to the topic.
Pope Gregory XII and his astronomers revised and fine-tuned the calendar again and they introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582. Why? Because, as a matter of fact, one Earth year is supposed to be 365 and a quarter long. Yes, but no. It is slightly less. That’s why the Pope and his astronomers corrected that discrepancy. They introduced their Gregorian calendar and according to it 3 leap days are lost every 400 years. By the way, mankind should fine-tune the calendar once again after 10 000 years unless it finds a newer system. 😀
If we look at today’s calendar, we shall see that normally months have either 30 or 31 days and February has 28 days (29 in the leap year). Have you asked yourselves why it is so? Well, it is because of the ego of another mighty Roman Emperor who reached that decision. During Julius Caesar’s reign February possessed 30 days and the month of July, consisting of 31 days, was named after him. When his successor – Caesar Augustus, came to power observed that “his” month (August) had 2 days less and he “robbed” them from “poor February”. Thus he made the number of the days of the two months equal.
Hmmm … There is one very old tradition I wasn’t aware of. The 29th of February is thought to be the day of women proposing. Watch out, men, it is February 29 today. 😀 Be careful not get into the trap of family life. 😀 ….. Now seriously. 🙂 St Bridget is supposed to have suggested that to St Patrick in the 5th century and the reason was that women waited too long to get a marriage proposal from their beloved ones. That’s why St Patrick allowed women to have one day every four years when they could propose a marriage. And if a man had refused a proposal, they would have got a fine, as per the law brought in by Queen Margaret of Scotland.
Nowadays this practice of women proposing varies in the countries all over the world. For example, the Greeks think that if they get married on this date, their marriage will be unlucky and they avoid this date. If a man refuses a marriage on February 29 in Denmark, he should compensate the woman with twelve pairs of gloves, while the gloves are substituted for fabric for a skirt in Finland.
There is one more interesting and peculiar fact this time related Christopher Columbus. 1504 was a leap year and the great discoverer took advantage of the lunar eclipse on February 29 during his last voyage to the West Indies. He and his crew were stranded on the island of Jamaica. Unfortunately, local tribes stopped helping them. Columbus knew about the lunar eclipse and used the astronomical phenomenon in the most cunning way. He gathered together all of the chiefs of the tribes and explained to them that God would paint the Moon in red and it would be their punishment if they didn’t start assisting him and his crew again. On the 29th of February, during the eclipse, the Moon disappeared. The chiefs got scared and immediately promised to cooperate with him as much as they could. After the promise was given, the Moon emerged from its shadow.
Soooo, you yourselves see that “miracles” happen on the 29th of February … and unique and blessed babies are born as well. 😀 And if these babies are planned somewhere abroad (let’s say on a honeymoon somewhere either in Budapest or Berlin), and if these creatures are in a hurry to meet the new world and are born two weeks in advance, they will live under a lucky star. (And also their fathers will “benefit” from it because they will “win every bet on their child’s birthday”. 😀 ) Their impatience will turn them into extremely curious persons and great travellers and explorers. They won’t have “their own” birthday every year and will “rent” March 1 as a birthday but they will celebrate it every day throughout these four years. And when …. when it is the 29th of February again they will have the greatest birthday ever, the much awaited birthday. And last thing here. There is no doubt that these creatures will remain forever young. 😀 (humble once again, a?! 😀 )
Happy birthday to me and to all grown-up children who were born on February 29. 🙂
A leaper at the age of 9 years already 😉