Hey guys, get ready to run somewhere this Leap YearBy Steve Estes
For those who may be unaware, 2014 is a leap year. A leap year is one that has an extra day. And just because February has always felt slighted by its diminutive stature among months, the powers that be have decided that February will get the extra day and for leap year there will be 29 days in February.
Most of us believe that there are 365 days in a year, and that the number of 24-hour days is determined by the length of time it takes for our planet to circumnavigate its orbit around the sun.
But the Earth actually is just a little bit slower than that in making the trip, whether because it’s getting older or just because Mother Earth has raised so many species that she’s getting calmer in her older age.
Back in 45 BC, Roman Emperor Julius Caesar decided that, to keep peace in the calendar-geek ranks, he would establish the solar year at 365 and one-fourth days. Now he knew that is was impossible to split a day into a quarter without some change, so he made the determination, he could you know because he was, after all, the reigning monarch of his day, that he would personally add an extra day to the calendar every four years to make things right.
February, because it was stunted in its growth with only those 28 days you see, was chosen as the happy recipient of that extra day every four years, and all was right with the calendar-geek universe.
Even with that change, however, the calendar year didn’t exactly match the astronomical year, putting important season such as bikini and parka off by as much as three days every 400 years.
We wouldn’t have been the ones to have to watch bikini-clad ladies march out of their homes three days early while snow still settled on the landscape, nor would we want to see the bikini disappear three days earlier than it had to.
Thus, Catholic Pope Gregory XIII decreed that the old Julian calendar in use at the time should be abolished and the Gregorian (wonder where that name came from) calendar would henceforward be implemented.
He could do that because, well, who was going to argue with the Pope?
And by his divine intervention, 10 days disappeared in just one year and the calendar-geek world was again at peace and the seasons, such as bikini and parka, were again stabilized.
The Pope also decreed that all centenary years not divisible by four would not be leap years, thus solidifying the matching of the calendar and astronomical years and ensuring the long-term survival of the necessary seasons, which of course are bikini and parka.
There was one little problem with all that calendar switching, though. It seems like the astronomical year and the calendar year are still 26 seconds apart, meaning that in the year 4905, we can expect another extra day in our lives and can look forward to a short-film version of Groundhog Day.
Personally I’d like to get that 26 seconds in sleep, but I probably don’t get to pick.
Now how did we get to Leap Day in Leap Year. That’s the technical explanation.
Here’s the folklore.
The additional day of February 29 did not have any standing in the Old English courts because you couldn’t levy a sentence of any number of years from a day that only exists once every four years, so the courts leaped over February 29 and simply dated everything February 28.
The best thing about Leap Day is for those that are born on February 29, they age four times as slow as the rest of us. The bad part of that is they only get a birthday party every four years. And they have to be 84 before they can legally imbibe alcohol in most states.
Leap Day is often referred to as Ladies Day because the old wives tale goes that women can propose marriage to men on Leap Day, as well as the rest of Leap Year. The legend comes from the Fifth Century when St. Bridget, female, complained to St. Patrick, who has his own holiday, that nuns never got a chance to propose marriage.
Now today that would be a definite no-no, but then, celibacy was by choice not by decree.
St. Patrick suggested that women be given the opportunity every seven years. For those sci-fi fans out there, that coincides with the Vulcan Pom-Farr rituals.
But St. Bridget wasn’t happy with that arrangement so she suggested every four years. St. Patrick said OK. Men had to give in even then.
So he gave the ladies Leap Year. Then Bridget proposed to him. He declined.
But he made promises, as men are wont to do, and said she would get a silk gown and a kiss every year on the anniversary of his refusal.
So in the British Isles in the Middle Ages there was an unwritten social law that any man who turned down a Leap Year invitation had to compensate the woman with a silk gown and a kiss.
To show that something was up, women were supposed to wear a red petticoat beneath the he of her skirt and allow that petticoat to show, just a little bit.
If the men were fast enough runners, they could escape by looking for this sign.
The social custom spread throughout Europe in the 15th century and came to the United States a century later, but rumor has it that the men here, because they were mostly chauvinistic pigs in that time frame, ignored the custom.
Yes, ladies, we were arrogant butt heads even then.
But not to be outdone completely, men decreed that Leap Day was the only day of Leap Year on which women could not propose marriage, and if they did, well…..we owe them nothing.
There’s that arrogant butt head thing again.
So guys, this is 2014.
It’s a Leap Year.
You probably won’t see any red petticoats under the skirts.