Monday, April 22, 2024

Happy Leap Year

For the first time since I launched The Meaford Independent in 2009, I am writing an editorial to be published on ‘leap day’, February 29.

It only comes around every four years, and for many, leap years are just an interesting quirk on our calendars. But for others the leap year holds more importance. For our office helper and budding writer Sorche, for example, it means that it’s her birthday.

As a leapling, I tend to view my life in cycles of four years instead of the usual ‘Five Year Plan’ that most people do. Counting down from birthday to birthday and reflecting on what has happened and changed since my last birthday,” Sorche wrote in our print newspaper last week.

Sorche is part of a pretty exclusive club. There are only about 5 million people on the planet with a February 29 birthday. Five million out of some 8.1 billion inhabitants of this planet is a pretty exclusive club indeed, with just 0.0625 percent of us having been born on February 29.

The road to the modern leap year had some bumps along the way.

The concept of a leap year or day predates our current Gregorian calendar and even the one before that, the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar is named after Julius Caesar who got the idea for a leap day from the Egyptians. But they weren’t the only ones who used it. Hebrew, Chinese, and Buddhist calendars all have leap months or intercalary months. When Julius Caesar had his calendar introduced, any year divisible by four became a leap year, but this created too many extra days and so when the Gregorian calendar was implemented in 1582 a new set of rules were adhered to. First, a leap year must be divisible by four, second it cannot be divisible by one hundred, unless it is also divisible by 400. So, following these new guidelines, 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but 2000 was, and 2100 won’t be but 2400 will be,” Sorche noted in her article last week.

The leap year of course includes an extra day, February 29, making 2024 a 366-day year. An actual astronomical year is slightly less than 365.25 days, so in order to accommodate the actual movement of time, every four years we tack an extra day on the year to keep everything in balance.

As Sorche wrote in her article last week, “It takes the Earth approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds to complete its journey around the sun and if we didn’t add a day every few years, the calendar would move out of sync with the seasons and eventually we’d be celebrating Christmas during summer.”

A week or so ago I had a chat with a reader who I had met on the sidewalk downtown, and he asked me what I planned to do with the extra day we have this month. I wished that I had a more fun answer than that I would be working, but sadly, nothing witty came to mind at the moment.

In my former career, February 29 was the wedding anniversary of one of my colleagues. I recall him joking one time that he got married on the leap day so that he would only have to buy flowers every four years.

As we humans tend to do, there have been some traditions created in honour of the leap year, but I was surprised when I was poking around online last week looking for interesting facts about leap years that we haven’t created more traditions focused on the leap year – perhaps it is easily overlooked, only taking place once every four years.

In the United Kingdom, there is an old tradition that women may propose marriage in leap years, while in Greece marriage during a leap year is considered unlucky (don’t tell my former colleague).

Poking around online you will find clubs for ‘leaplings’, and you will of course find many leap year-related memes, along with lists of ‘fun facts’ about leap years.

Though the leap day is important for keeping our calendars on track, and to avoid celebrating Christmas in July, it is largely just a bump in the road as we march through this year, and an anomaly we won’t see again until 2028. It is a nice distraction that offers an opportunity to muse about the less serious, if only for a brief time.

So, happy leap day birthday to Sorche, and if you are one of the 0.0625% of those celebrating a February 29 birthday, happy birthday to you as well.

Though we will see the return of the leap year four years from now, it would be another 28 years before the leap day falls on an editorial Thursday, so, given my age, I won’t be writing for nor publishing a leap day newspaper ever again, so Happy Leap Year, Happy Leap Day.

I hope you make the most of the extra day provided by this year’s calendar.


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