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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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Can You Feel the Love? THE SECRET TO LIVING A LONGER, HEALTHIER LIFE
The human brain is an incredibly powerful organ. It solves complex problems, recalls forgotten memories, and triggers a dizzying array of emotions. But its most incredible power is the effect it can have on the rest of the body. When it comes to love, well, our brains certainly love it, and our bodies reflect that. LESS STRESS Human beings thrive on a sense of connection and belonging, and studies have shown that love actually has positive effects on a person’s physical health as well as mental. The security and commitment felt in a loving relationship are shown to reduce stress by stunting the production of cortisol, the body’s stress-inducing hormone. Less stress means lower blood pressure, a healthier heart, and a lower risk of stroke, especially in men. HEALTHIER IMMUNE SYSTEMS Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that calm, happy people can fight common colds and the flu more easily than those who are anxious or depressed. The physical benefits of love even go as far as healing wounds quicker. Small injuries inflicted on a wide test group at Ohio State University Medical
Center healed nearly twice as fast on people who experienced consistent warmth and care than those who experienced hostility. In fact, the latter group needed almost a full additional day to achieve the same amount of healing as the first group. LONGER, HAPPIER LIVES Being surrounded by love may even save your life. A statistic from the National Health Interview Survey states that single people face a 58% higher risk of mortality. Further bolstering that claim is the Harvard Health Blog, which claims happily married participants experience better health as they age when compared to peers in unhappy partnerships. In fact, the blog asserts, “People in stressful, unhappy marriages may be worse off than a single person who is surrounded by supportive and caring friends, family, and loved ones.” So, it seems the results are in: Loving someone is a healthy lifestyle choice. Even having a strong network of friends and family boosts your odds of living a long life by 50%. So, get out there and make the healthy choice for yourself and those around you by
leading a life full of love.
Completely Different Roots Celebrating St. Paddy’s Day in Ireland vs. America
From extravagant parades to green-dyed rivers, something about St. Patrick’s Day feels quintessentially American — despite its Irish heritage. That’s because many common St. Patrick’s Day traditions actually originated in America, evolving beyond their roots in the Emerald Isle in a few key ways. On March 17, Irish folks commemorate the death of St. Patrick, who brought Christianity to pagan Ireland during the late fourth and early fifth centuries. Historically, these religious origins make for a more somber observance of St. Patrick’s Day. Many Irish families go to church and eat a modest feast as the extent of their celebration. However, St. Patrick’s Day in America is not so much about venerating Ireland’s patron saint as it is about celebrating Irish heritage in a foreign land. When
Catholic Irish immigrants first came to the United States, they faced persecution from a largely Protestant population. In response, Irish Americans began using March 17 as a day to publicly declare and celebrate Irish heritage with parades and demonstrations. The observation of St. Patrick’s Day grew in popularity in cities with large Irish populations, like Boston, New York, and Chicago. Then, in the booming post-World War II economy, various businesses aggressively marketed the holiday to Americans of all heritages. Thus, it became a day when anyone could celebrate Irish American heritage, or at least it gave everyone an excuse to drink like they believe the Irish do. Ironically, imbibing was not a part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Ireland until relatively recently. Due to the
religious nature of the holiday, pubs and bars closed down on March 17 until 1961. Additionally, the traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage is another American addition. In Ireland, pork and cabbage was actually more common, but impoverished Irish immigrants substituted less expensive beef for pork, and the tradition stuck. Even though the most widely observed St. Patrick’s Day celebrations originated in America, many of them have found their way back to Ireland. Starting in 1996, the St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Dublin now attracts over 1 million attendees with all the drinks and revelry that Americans love. You’d be hard pressed to find a green beer, though. In the hallowed birthplace of Guinness and whiskey, some traditions may be better left across the pond.
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Peter Piper Did What?
THE LITTLE-KNOWN ORIGINS OF COMMON TONGUE TWISTERS
Tongue twisters are a highlight of many people’s childhoods and are also highly entertaining for many adults. Having the ability to say “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” without stumbling or stuttering can earn you several impressed stares. However, as fun as they are to say, not very many people know the history behind our favorite tongue twisters.
Mary Anning. Mary was a woman living in the 19th century who collected rocks, seashells, and even fossils on the rocky shores near her home. To support her family, Mary sold her finds to people, including the fossils of the ichthyosaur, the
plesiosaur, and the pterosaur. Though her constant scouring of the shores inspired Terry Sullivan’s
“She Sells Sea Shells” song, Mary’s more prominent fossil discoveries went mostly unrecognized.
PETER PIPER: Pierre Poivre, Gardener
Although it is not known for sure, Peter Piper and his pickled peppers are speculated to be inspired by a French horticulturist, Pierre Poivre. Throughout the 18th century, it’s said that Pierre would smuggle cloves out of the Dutch East India Company-controlled Spice Islands. He then grew them on his own, which then led to freeing the market for future cloves.
HOW MUCH WOOD: Fay Templeton, Performer
Of the many tongue twisters in the world, “How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck” is a real favorite. This rhyme was introduced to the public through the musical “The Runaways” in a song performed by Fay Templeton in 1903. Most people pay little attention
SHE SELLS SEASHELLS: Mary Anning, Fossil Discoverer
to the origin of the tongue twister and instead spend more time trying to answer it. In the 20th century, a New York fish and wildlife technician named Richard Thomas put some thought into it and declared the answer is 700 pounds.
The popular beach-themed tongue twister, “She sells seashells by the seashore,” was inspired by groundbreaking discoverer
Vegan Banana Pancakes
Inspired by My Darling Vegan
• 1 1/2 cups flour • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder • 1/2 tsp salt • 2 extra ripe bananas, mashed Ingredients
• 1 cup soy milk • 2 tbsp maple syrup • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted • 1 tsp vanilla extract • Cooking spray
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1. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. 2. In a separate bowl, whisk bananas, soy milk, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla together. 3. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir. Don’t overmix. Lumps are okay. 4. Spray a heated pancake griddle with cooking spray, and scoop 1/4 cup of the mixture onto the griddle. Repeat until the griddle is filled. 5. After 3 minutes or when bubbles appear, flip each pancake. 6. After each pancake has risen to double its initial height, remove from griddle. Repeat as necessary until batter is gone. 7. Serve with your favorite toppings!
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE How Will You Celebrate Leap Day?
The Effects of Love on Your Physical Health
The Evolution of St. Patrick’s Day
Famous Tongue Twisters and Their Origins
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Vegan Banana Pancakes
Should You Be Worried About Digital Dementia?
Should You Be Worried About Digital Dementia? What It Is, Where It Came From, and What It Could Mean for Our Screen Time
Everyone forgets things. It’s not unusual to have trouble remembering the name of someone you’ve just met or recalling the face of a classmate you haven’t seen in 20 years. But it’s less normal — and a lot more inconvenient — to become chronically absent-minded. If you find yourself
“In theory, having a device to store phone numbers, dates, maps and directions, and other information like that frees you up to focus on bigger and theoretically more important things,” Tony Bradley wrote in Forbes. “If you just use your device as a memory crutch, though, and you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to put your brain to work on other things, you aren’t exercising your brain, and it will atrophy.” Psychology Today blamed digital dementia in part on the mental strategies encouraged by video games. According to one study, gaming encourages the “response” strategy of following the same rote movements, while nongamers tend to use the “spatial” strategy of relying on landmarks when they navigate, which is better for mental sharpness. Whatever the root cause, we can take steps to fight digital dementia. As Dr. Carolyn Brockington told Alzheimers.net, the best strategies involve stepping away from screens and relying on brainpower. The next time you’re considering picking up your smartphone, try reading a book, playing a musical instrument, hitting the gym, or learning a new language instead.
struggling to remember the minutiae of daily life, which page of a book you left off on, or when it’s time to pick your kids up from soccer practice, digital dementia could be to blame.
The term “digital dementia” was coined in 2012 by German neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer, who studies how our addiction to technology is impacting our brains. According to Alzheimers.net, Spitzer found that “overuse of digital technology is resulting in the breakdown of cognitive abilities in a way that is more commonly seen in people who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness.” Because of the shared symptoms, Spitzer called the affliction digital dementia. In the years since, speculation has abounded about the causes of digital dementia and how people can fight it. A 2017 Forbes article theorized that the problem isn’t just time spent with screens but how much we rely on our smartphones to feed us once-memorized information.
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