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Leap and Let Leap

mlopezBy Myrna Lopez

‘Thirty days hath September, April, June and November. All the rest have thirty-one, excepting February alone, and that has twenty-eight days clear,and twenty-nine in each leap year.’ (Mother Goose)     

Julius Caesar first introduced leap years two thousand years ago. It became the Julian calendar. It was a way to make counting days catch up with the earth’s revolution around the sun. Otherwise we lose six hours each year. The Julian version had one criterion  add a day every four years. Its simplicity led to too many leap years. The Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian standard in February 1582. It was named after Pope Gregory XIII. His version which we have adopted has three criteria:

The year is divisible by 4.

If it can be divided by 100, it is NOT a leap year

The exceptions are years divisible by 400. Those become leap years.

This means that 2000 and 2400 are leap years, while 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, 2300 and 2500 are NOT leap years.The year 2000 was somewhat special as it was the first instance when the third criterion was used in most parts of the world since the transition from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar      .’ (www.timeanddate.com)

The Chinese calendar follows lunar months which follows the phases of the moon and their relationship to the solar year and the constellations. They follow such convoluted algorithm. Their lunar years have an embolismic       month  an extra month. The Hebrewcalendar is also a lunisolar      . They call their extra month Adar Alef.       The computation leaves me with brain freeze. Suffice it to say that theirs is ruled by strict adherence to their religion. Yom Kippur      ,their holiest day, must never be next to Sabbath      , which they celebrate weekly.

The Hindu calendar hasadhika maasa       (extra month) which happens every two to three years to make up for the eleven days lost by following the lunar months. The Iranian calendar has an added single day every four years. But in the 33rd       year, leap years occur on the fifth year. I’m glad they have brainy scholars who keep track of these dates.

Now that you and I are aligned perfectly, let’s look at the whimsical trivia surrounding this day.

Those born on leap day, February 29, are called leaplings       or leapers      . I have a good friend who was born on leap day and his parents named him Oswaldo. In researching for this article, I finally realized why – St. Oswald, born inEngland, was a Benedictine monk whose life was dedicated to the poor. He died on leap day in 992.

InEurope, women are allowed to propose to men on this day. Legend has it that St. Bridget made a compromise with St. Patrick. He allowed that women be granted this right on leap day. What St. Bridget gave up in exchange I don’t know. InScotland, an ordinance was passed that levied fines on men who ignored this tradition. The fine/s could be as simple as a kiss, to several silk dresses, or a dozen gloves. The significance of the gloves seems to indicate that a woman can hide her shame of no engagement ring by wearing the gloves.

I found no such trivia about Leap Years in Asia. I thought this was a mistake since Asiais steeped in superstition and tradition. I did find that the Republic of China and Hongkong decreed when leaplings       can celebrate their birthdays.China, in their Civil Code, implied that should be February 28 on common years. Hongkong considers that to be March 1.

To my leapling       friends, I wish you the Happiest Birthday. But mind what promises or vows you make. In Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance      , Frederic the pirate apprentice discovered that he was bound to serve the pirates until his 21stbirthday       rather than until his 21st year

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2 Responses to Leap and Let Leap

  1. Very interesting and fun article, Myrna! I remember learning all about leap year in grade school, but that was many moons ago…