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A LEAP ABOVE CELEBRATING LEAP DAY’S UNIQUE AND STORIED HISTORY
THE DARK SIDE OF LEAP DAY Many people view leap day and leap years as bad omens. For example, many Greeks believe marrying during a leap year is bad luck, so much so that USA Today predicts as many as 1 in 5 Greek couples avoid marrying during those years. But the dark history of leap day may have more weight than old superstitions. The first arrest warrant during the dramatic and deadly saga of the Salem Witch Trials was issued on Feb. 29, 1692. The trails would end in May 1693, but by then, more than 200 people had been accused of witchcraft, 30 of those were tried in court, and 19 people were killed. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LEAPLINGS! … UNLESS IT’S THE YEAR 3000 The odds of being born on a leap day are relatively good, at 1 in 1,461 chances. Every four years, “leaplings,” as they are affectionately called, enjoy a “real” birthday along with the more than 4 million people who share a birthday with them. In Norway, one family celebrates three siblings who were all born on leap day. The Henriksen siblings, Heidi, born in 1960; Olav, born in 1964; and Leif-Martin, born 1968, share this birthday every four years. They were joined by the Utah- based Estes family in 2012, who are raising leaplings born in 2004, 2008, and 2012. And, despite how few birthdays leaplings get, some have even fewer. Leap day
What would you do with one extra day? Every four years, we are confronted with that very question. The first leap day originated in 46 B.C. when Julius Caesar learned from the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria that the 355-day Roman calendar was about 10 and 1/4 days shorter than the solar calendar. He introduced the 365-day Julian calendar and added an intercalary day — leap day — every four years to cover the extra 1/4 day. It wouldn’t be for another 200 years that astronomers would discover that the calendar system was still about 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds short. It would last this way until 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII introduced a better method for calculating leap year. This method has become the system we use today, and it led to Feb. 29 being the standard leap day. Since then, we make up for lost time with one “free” day every four years. Folklore and superstitions surrounding leap day have continued to be passed down throughout history. Here are just a few of the quirkiest and most interesting stories about this phenomenon. FEBRUARY’S OTHER ROMANTIC HOLIDAY Legend claims that in 1288, St. Bridget approached St. Patrick with a unique problem. It was customary for men to propose to women, leaving many women waiting impatiently for their men to make a commitment. St. Patrick, ever the generous man, agreed to allow women one day every four years when they could propose to their beaus. Thus, leap day became known as “Bachelor’s Day” for many Europeans. Some legends claim that if the man refused, he would have to buy the woman silk or furs, which might have been reason enough for women to pop the question in the first place. Historians believe this leap day tradition inspired Sadie Hawkins dances in the U.S., during which girls are encouraged to ask boys to accompany them to the dance.
may appear to happen every four years, but that isn’t always the case. In general, leap year does not happen during years that are divisible by 100. The only exception is if the year is also divisible by 400. So, the years 1600 and 2000 had leap days, but the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 did not. Likewise, in the year 3000, for example, we won’t celebrate an extra day in February.
Luckily, 2020 will have this unique and special day.
The question is, how will you celebrate?
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