Every fourth year or so we pick up an extra day in our calendar and luckily 2016 is one of those years. Leap Day, February 29th, is a welcome addition to our schedule. We need some extra time to get our lives in order before we head back home in a couple weeks to Nine of Cups in Trinidad.
So how come we get all this extra time? According to Rich Exner at cleveland.com, it's a bit more complicated than I thought. “Most everyone knows that leap year is a calendar-balancing act, so our calendars don't get out of whack over time. A year, based on the Earth's orbit, lasts 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. Put another way, that's 365.2422 days long. A normal calendar year is 365 days. Over four years, that would add up to 1,460 days. But, based on the Earth's orbit, we really have covered nearly 1,461 days. So, Feb. 29 is added in leap years to bring us up to 1,461 calendar days.”
But that's still not exactly precise. “The math-gifted know that four years on the calendar actually last 1,460.9688 days, not 1,461 days. A little difference can add up to a big difference over time. So every 100 years, we don't observe a leap year. There was no leap year in 1800 and no leap year in 1900. What about 2000 ... it was a leap year? Skipping a leap year every 100 years solves much of the problem, but not all of it. So every 400 years, there's another twist. There is a leap day in years ending with 00 if the year is divisible by 400. That made 2000 a leap year and it will be the case again in 2400.
But 2100, 2200 and 2300 will not be leap years. This system will keep us on track for 3,333 years.”
Whew … I was worried.
It was Julius Caesar, by the way, that introduced the first leap every four years. There ended up being too many leap years, so the Romans added an extra month every once in awhile to coincide with the change of the seasons. It stayed that way until 1582 when the Gregorian calendar, the one we use today, was introduced. Some calendars have leap months. The Chinese lunisolar calendar has 13 months every three years. The Ethiopian calendar (yes, there is an Ethiopian calendar) has 13 months
Now that we have the extra day, what are we going to do with it? Aha … I've got that all figured out.
I've scheduled our IRS tax prep that morning, as well as several other irritating little chores while David works on projects at the new house. There's still more moving to be done and stuff to be packed and subsequently unpacked.
Traditionally, if a woman asks a man to marry her on leap day, he must oblige. If not, he must pay a penalty. In some countries, a man who refused would provide the rejected woman with gloves to hide the embarrassment of a missing engagement ring on her finger. Since David obliged me ~30 years ago (actually he asked me...just to set the record straight), I thought I'd turn the tables and invite him out to lunch. MY treat (OUR budget). Since I doubt I'll convince anyone in the family to play leap frog, I thought I'd find a copy of Leap Year to watch in the evening. I know it's a chick flick, but while sipping extra dry champagne on our extra day, David will hardly notice.