Jump for joy on Leap Day?

What will you do with your extra day? Oh yeah, it is a leap year and that means we get an extra day in February.  For many, it may conjure memories of the 2010 rom-com “Leap Year,” which harkens back to the Irish tradition by which women can propose to men on that one day. Others likely see it merely as a funny quirk in the calendar, or just another Thursday. Most people know that a single day is about 24 hours long, and that there are 365 days in a year. But it actually takes Earth 365.242 days to orbit the sun. Pope Gregory XIII sought to address that problem in the 16th century with the Gregorian Calendar, which adds leap days in years divisible by four, unless the year is also divisible by 100. To make matters even more confusing, a leap day is still added in years divisible by 400.

The Romans considered February an unlucky month. On top of that, they were deeply suspicious of odd numbers. Because February only had 28 days to begin with, they “just shoved it into February,” though leap day used to be on the 24th of February. There are about 5 million people worldwide with a Feb. 29 birthday. The list of so-called “leaplings” includes celebrities such as motivational speaker Tony Robbins and hip-hop artist Ja Rule. And peoples’ odds of joining their ranks are small — about 1-in-1,461, to be exact. According to one legend, complaints from St. Bridget prompted St. Patrick to designate Feb. 29 as the one day when women can propose to men. The custom spread to Scotland and England, where the British said that any man who rejects a woman’s proposal owes her several pairs of fine gloves. In Greece and some other places, it’s considered bad luck to get married on leap day. She points to the proliferation of postcards in the 20th that portrayed women who proposed to men as desperate, unattractive and aggressive, such as holding butterfly nets and pointing guns at guys.

So far, so good. But have you ever stopped to think how lucky we are to live on a planet that allows for such a straightforward set of leap year rules? What if Earth moved a bit faster or slower along its orbit or if it rotated at a different speed? What would our calendar look like then? Well, let’s have a look at Mars. The red planet orbits the Sun at a greater distance than Earth, so a Mars year takes much longer: 687 Earth days. At the same time, it spins at a marginally slower pace, so a Martian day, a sol, takes 24.6597 hours. This works out at 668.59 sols per year on Mars. So, in a Mars calendar system, a common year would have 668 sols, and a leap year would have 669 sols.

Leap Year Laughs

There was a sign in the gift shop. “For the man who has it all. Buy him a calendar to keep track of the payments.”

One day I walked up behind my wife of 19 years and whispered into her ear, “I love you.” Without saying a word, she went over and marked it on the calendar. 

After he forgot Sweetest Day, I once gave my husband the silent treatment for an entire week, at the end of which he declared, “Hey, we’re getting along pretty great lately!” 

Next weekend is the end of daylight saving time. Or, put another way, your microwave is about to have the right time on it again. 

February 28th Birthdays

1977 – Ali Larter, 1972 – Tasha Smith, 1998 – Olivia Scriven, 1948 – Bernadette Peters

1940 – Mario Andretti, 1929 – Frank Gehry, 1977 – Eric Lindross and Jason Aldean

Morning Motivator: