By Diane Forrest
Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
February has twenty eight alone
All the rest have thirty-one
Except in Leap Year, that's the time
When February's Days are twenty-nine
Since today is February 29th, I guess that would make this a leap year. Every 4 years an extra day is added to February for reasons that are too technical to explain. I have been trying to get through all the calendar stuff for hours, and it is still too complicated. Apparently when the calendars were changed to the Gregorian calendar something had to be done to correct the summer solstice and to keep the seasons intact. I have long ago given up on trying to understand the way the calendars work and simply hang a calendar on the wall and check it daily to see what day it is.
The important fact about leap year is the fact that women have the right to propose to men during a leap year. According to an old Irish legend, or possibly history, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every 4 years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.
In some places, Leap Day has been known as “Bachelors’ Day” for the same reason. A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day. In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman's proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.
Another interesting fact about leap year is the birth of babies. Since Leap Year occurs once every 4 years, most babies born have to either celebrate on February 28th or March 1st. Some famous people born on the 29th include:
1468 – Pope Paul III (d. 1549)
1792 – Gioacchino Rossini, Italian composer (William Tell, The Barber of Seville) (d. 1868)
1896 – Morarji Desai, former Indian prime minister (d. 1995)
1916 – Dinah Shore, American singer (d. 1994)
1924 – Al Rosen, American baseball player
1924 – Carlos Humberto Romero, former president of El Salvador
1960 – Anthony (Tony) Robbins, American motivational speaker
1964 – Lyndon Byers, Canadian hockey player
1972 – Antonio Sabàto Jr, Italian-born actor
1976 – Ja Rule, American rapper and actor
1980 – Chris Conley, American musician and songwriter/composer
Technically, a leaping (someone born on the 29th) will have fewer birthday than their age in years. This phenomenon is exploited when a person claims to be only a quarter of their actual age, by counting their leap-year birthday anniversaries only. In Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penance, Frederic the pirate apprentice discovers that he is bound to serve the pirates until his 21st birthday rather than until his 21st year.
For legal purposes, legal birthdays depend on how local laws count time intervals.
What do you plan to do for your extra day?