Catch-up day confusing

Published 12:50 am Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Well, today is calendar catch-up day, also known as Leap Year. To remind myself why we have Leap Year, I looked it up.

This is what I found from legends. I probably learned this in elementary school but forgot I learned it in elementary school.

“The earth turns roughly 365 and a quarter times on its axis by the time it completes a full year’s orbit around the sun, which means periodically the calendar has to catch up, thus leap years. A leap year contains one extra day, Feb. 29, for a total of 366 days, and 2012 is a leap year.”

That means this year, I get an extra day, which is good. So, I continued my learning by reading about where the “leap” comes in.

“In a normal sequence of years, a calendar date that falls on, say, a Monday one year will fall on Tuesday the next, Wednesday the year after that, Thursday the year after that, and so on. But every fourth year, thanks to the extra day in February, we “leap” over the expected day of the week — Friday, in this case — and that same calendar date lands on Saturday instead.”

If that isn’t confusing enough, there is a mathematical formula for this leaping around.

“A leap year is any year whose date is exactly divisible by 4 except those which are divisible by 100 but not 400.”

Having written on many occasions about my uneasy relationship with math, we will skip any further discussion of the formula for Leap Year. Just know that one exists.

Now on to the more fun stuff I discovered. For example, people born on leap year get a special name, leaplings or leapers. In days of old, for some unremembered reason, people believed these little leaping babies were harder to raise and were more prone to sickness.

There was also a belief that “monkeying” with the calendar by adding an extra day brought all kind of havoc in nature. Farmers thought it messed up the growth of crops and cattle. In the words of the Scots, “Leap year was never a good sheep year.”

Folks also had a saying that beans and peas planted during a leap year grew the wrong way. I’m still trying to figure out what the wrong way is — pods underground, roots on top. Not sure how that worked.

Of course, there is the fun idea I’ve always associated with leap year granting special privileges to women. On this date, a woman can propose to the man instead of the other way around. There are claims that this swapping of roles dates back to 1288. An interesting part to this switch is what happens if the man refuses, something I never knew.

“Any man who refused such a proposal owed his spurned suitor a silk gown and a kiss — provided she was wearing a red petticoat at the moment she popped the question.” An extra day and a kiss — guess that is some compensation for rejection.

So here’s wishing you all a happy calendar catch-up day. Enjoy your Leap Year but keep in mind that it might not be a good year for birthing babies, unless you want a sickly, fussy one. It is also not a good time for planting peas and beans or for deciding to go into the cattle/sheep business.

However, if you are a fair maiden of any age with a desire to marry, take the leap, (pardon the pun), and propose, but when you do wear your best red petticoat so at least you get a silk dress for your trouble.