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Whoa, A Leap Year!

Posted on Friday, January 12, 2024
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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A calendar on February 29 on a leap year, leap day

Whoa! It’s a “leap year!” Almost spilled my coffee! You know what that means, right? You don’t? Well, bear with me then, because this is a leap year, with a “leap day,” “leaplings,” story in there somewhere.

So, first, what is a leap year? Easy and hard to explain.

Easy: It is that year, every four when we add one day to February – so instead of 28 days, that month gets one more, and you get February 29th. A leap year then contains 366 days, not 365.

Hard: A leap year, unlike an astronomical year – or the time it takes Earth to travel around the sun – is a human creation or rather a human compensation for the fraction of a day lost over time by the fact that an astronomical year is 365 and a quarter days long. So, to even things up, we add one day every four years.

Thus, the calendar created by Julius Ceasar, not coincidentally known as the Julian Calendar, amounts to three years of 365 days followed by one of 366. Meantime, the Gregorian Calendar, a refinement by Pope Gregory XIII, does the same with a slight adjustment for an error in the Julian algorithm.

The Gregorian Calendar, which hit the streets in 1582 and is used by most of the world, is 365 days for each of three years followed by one year of 366 days, but adds a riveting – unforgettable – refinement: The extra day occurs every fourth year, except years “evenly divisible by 100, but not by 400.” Got it?

In this way, humanity keeps track of time’s passage on an annual basis, referencing the sun, moon, and stars, but also acknowledges that not all things come in neat and tidy packages since God is in charge.

Now that we have that settled, what else does this year being a “leap year” mean? Anything wild and wonderful? Well, it means we get an extra day of working, playing, sleeping, praying, worrying, or worrying not that ends in “2024,” and it means anyone born on February 29, 2024, is a “leapling.”

And what do we know about “leaplings?”  A lot. Like what? Well, not one, with a careful nod to entertainers, athletes, and random figures, has ever much changed the course of human history.

What else do we know about what happens on “leap days,” that added day in February, February 29, in recorded history? We know that, for one thing, nothing of importance is recorded on any leap day, which makes the day either terribly unimportant or given the bad stuff on other days, terribly important!

Okay, what else can be said about this being a leap year, leap days, and the rest? Well, according to old Irish tradition, women got to ask men to dance or to propose marriage on a “leap day,” causing havoc in old Ireland, including compensation for refusal in the form of a gown, coat, or “pair of gloves.”

In response to this initial splash of feminism, Irish men – of course, since men controlled everything except the calendar – responded by renaming it “Bachelor’s Day,” a celebration of their prerogatives.

What else? Well, culling the vast annuls of writing, thinking, and both astronomical and more earthly writing on this weighty subject, not much. The main point about leap years and leap days is that you have to remember they happen, pop that day onto the end of February, and know all about it, or not.

Bottom line. Sometimes it is nice to have an added day, something to talk about that is neither controversial nor worrisome, just a day on which you can be glad to be alive, note how calendars work, and if you are a “leapling” celebrate a rare birthday – if not, read a column on leap years, over coffee.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
6 months ago

Dammit! That’s one more day Biden is President!

Broccoli Free Zone
Broccoli Free Zone
6 months ago

An old buddy of mine tried to use the fact that he was born on 2/29 to get out of the draft. He told the draft board that he couldn’t possibly be 18 years old, because he had only had 4 birthdays. They told him, “That’s right, go ahead and get back in line. I’ll make note of it, and disregard your nonsense, THIS TIME.” He went to Vietnam and came back in a box, at age 5.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
6 months ago

The explanation of the reasoning for the adjustment to the calendar periodically – that bit of astronomical reasoning and history is important and interesting. Keeping things of that nature in balance has a place in understanding how the planets , stars ,- everything up there, out there, operates and it is good to have systems that do that, provide that knowledge. Good article Robert. Recently I have been thinking about what a benefit it would be to advance and improve education if the story of Eratosthenes, the Greek mathematician and geographer , who lived around 300 years before Christ , determined the circumference of the Earth – to within about 140 miles or so – using only a sort of highly accurate sun dial and mathematical reasoning . Basic geometry , basic trigonometry actually. Knowing the angle the shadow of the Sun in Alexandria, Egypt compared to Aswan ( then called Syene ) on the summer solstice – when the Sun was directly overhead and the distance (about 500 miles South ) was known. Eratosthenes reckoned the circumference of the Earth to be about 25,000 miles – a great accomplishment for then and something that I do believe should be explained in the first year of grade school in order to help develop a better understanding of the world , astronomy, history, geography, navigation , the importance of mathematics.

Kitty Corbett
Kitty Corbett
6 months ago

You missed the main significance of Leap Year 2024. In the USA, every leap year is also an election year. We will be able to jettison Joe Biden without having to impeach him.

Max
Max
6 months ago

RBC, another nice article. Did you know that George Washington was born on 11 Feb 1732 but when the US accepted the Gregorian calendar, his birthday changed to 22 Feb. Have a nice weekend and watch out for weather.

Melinda
Melinda
6 months ago

A fun article filled with useless, but interesting facts, lol. As for the bottom line, at 83 I’m glad to be alive every day. The world is an unending delight mixed with sorrow.

Patriot Will
Patriot Will
6 months ago

I very much enjoyed Mr. Charles’s article on Leap Year. ! also think it very interesting that many famous people have been born on February 29th; however, February 3rd is the birthday of very few famous people. In fact, many historians think that no notable historic figures have been born on February 3rd. Many people think this is very weird — I’m one of them.

Jimmy P
Jimmy P
6 months ago

I’ve always been disappointed that Leap Day is not considered a holiday. People on salary get screwed on that one!

Norma
Norma
6 months ago

We are Blessed another day Before Elena blessing for Trump so the people can realize how unorganized Democrats are and another day for president Biden to have Alzheimer’s… oh no… please Lord we need to have our Rights to VOTE in President Trump .. Thank you for leap year

Kim
Kim
6 months ago

Oh, no! Another day of joe biden! Another day before the election!

Derby
Derby
6 months ago

As a kid I wished I had been born a leapling (I wasn’t, I was born in July). I would have claimed to have been born on the last day of February AND to have been born on the day after February 28. Therefore I would have been entitled to two birthdays each year except leap year.
Just as well. Were that the case I’d be over 140 now.

corbin douthitt
corbin douthitt
6 months ago

Kinda like Sadie Hawkins Day…

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