Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day List

Today is Leap Day. And since it only comes around every four years, I say we celebrate. (I'm always looking for a reason to celebrate. Today I'm celebrating by putting Cafe Mocha creamer in my coffee. I like to Go Big.)

For your pleasure, here are 10 fun facts about Leap Day:

1. Leap Day is basically the result of we humans trying to bend nature to our humanly calendar. The Earth actually does not orbit around the sun in 365 days, if you can believe it. It really takes 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes, 45 seconds. So we do a little adjusting. If we didn't, eventually the calendar would be so off there'd be winter in July.

2. If your birthday is today, you can join the Honor Society of Leap Year Babies. I bet you get a trophy.

3. But if you're Scottish, you're, um, not so lucky. In the olden days, Leap Day babies were called "leaplings," and were thought to be sickly and difficult.

4. In the Leap Year of 1504, astronomy-savvy Christopher Columbus used the fact that he knew there was going to be a lunar eclipse to trick the Native Americans into offering him supplies. Scoundrel.

5. In the Leap Year of 1916 in my native South Carolina, goverment officials raised the minimum age for mine, mill, and factory workers from 12 to a seasoned 14.

6. In the first century BC, Julius Caesar tried to fix the calendar with the Leap Year, but things still weren't clicking. If we'd stuck with his plan, things would be "off" every 128 days. So in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII stepped in and changed the Leap Year rules.

7. Which are: 1) A year must be evenly divided by four to be a Leap Year; and 2) Any year that's evenly divisible by 100 isn't a Leap Year... unless it's evenly divisible by 400, too. And thus we abandoned the Julian calendar and adopted the Gregorian one.

8. It's true, the old Irish tradition that states that a woman can propose to a man on Leap Day. But if the gent refuses, he's got to pony up with a gift. The Irish believed that in this case, the proper gift was several pairs of gloves... to hide the poor lady's ringless hand.

9. In Greece, it's unlucky to marry in a Leap Year, let alone on a Leap Day.

10. The Irish believe that all Leap Year traditions began in the 5th century, when a plucky nun named Brigid petitioned a powerful missionary named Patrick on behalf of all women. She believed women should play a larger role in choosing their husbands. Patrick supposedly consented, allowing women to propose every four years. Brigid and Patrick were later made saints.

Now you'll all be Trivial Pursuit rock stars. Happy Wednesday!

* * Fun facts compiled using The Writer's Almanac, Wikipedia, Project, and CBC World News.

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