Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day

Today marks one of the corrective features of the Gregorian calendar: February 29th is "Leap Day," which also means that this is a "Leap Year."

To review my summary from Presidents Day, the Gregorian, "Western," or "Christian" calendar is based on a solar cycle of approximately 365 days, and is a modification of the Julian calendar, which was based on lunar cycles.  With the Gregorian calendar, the holiday Easter occurs closer to the point in the seasonal year that the holiday occurred when implemented and celebrated by early Christians (near the March equinox).  This was achieved by adding an extra day to February every 4 years (sort of--the Gregorian calendar also has to be corrected every 400-year "Leap Cycle" by leaving out 3 leap years).

Another interesting result is that in most consecutive years, the day of the week that a given date occurs advance by 1 each year.  On a Leap Year, the day advances by 2.  To quote Wikipedia: "For example, Christmas fell on Tuesday in 2001, Wednesday in 2002, and Thursday in 2003 but then 'leapt' over Friday to fall on a Saturday in 2004."

Various traditions, like "Bachelor's Day," have been a part of Leap Day lore (and even law) in the past.  These days, it seems like the main impact of this holiday tends to be felt by people who were born on Leap Day.  While their bodies are 4 or 8 or 24 years old, many people joke that these people are really toddlers, because they have only celebrated 1, 2, or 6 official birthdays...

A recent Leap Day "tradition" that caught my attention and made me laugh was Neil Gaiman's "Take A Writer to Dinner" post.  This whimsical practice makes as much sense as any other Leap Day behavior I've seen.  And it encourages writing, creativity, socializing, and altruism!  And eating!

Happy Leap Day.

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