Are you ready for it? Go ahead, think about it for a moment. I’ll wait. What am I talking about?
Give up? Ok, this coming Saturday is Feb. 29 — a date that comes around every four years as in a leap year. This very special gift comes to us because in 45BC, Julius Caesar acknowledged that a “true” year is actually 365 1/4 days in length.
Apparently, someone figured out that good ole Mother Earth takes 365.242 days to make one revolution around the sun which keeps our calendar in check. Thus, it was necessary to add an additional day every four years.
All of this seemed fine until the late 16th century when Pope Gregory determined that Caesar’s calendar simply approximated the year at 365.25 instead of 365.242216. So he introduced a new Gregorian calendar that kept the fundamental concept of a leap year but authorized that century years such as 1900, 2000, etc. would only become leap years if divisible by 400 which really means an approximate one day error after 4,000 years or so.
Confused? Yes, well so am I. That being said, perhaps the best thing for all of us to do is simply forget about all the mathematical and intricate complexities of the cosmos and simply accept the most accurate definition of the length of each year and just concentrate on enjoying our extra day seizing upon it as best we can.
Growing up in England as an only child I found great comfort and a whole lot of fun in the fact that my mother’s four brothers, who all lived fairly close by, had married and had nine children between them, all of whom were around my age. I couldn’t have asked for better playmates.
It so happened that of those nine first cousins, only one was female, my Uncle Norman’s daughter, Anne. Anne also had one other family distinction — she was born on leap day, Feb. 29.
It was that reality that we all used to explain her wacky Pollyannaish personality and the ever-cheerful optimism in the way she viewed the world. It was Anne who first dared to skinny-dip in the Abby Park Pond in the middle of winter one Saturday afternoon.
It was also my cousin Anne who convinced her youngest brother, Peter, to lock their father in the country outhouse and then run off and hide in the woods like nothing ever happened.
Not long ago when Anne, who now lives in Australia, was about to turn 72, she sent out colorful invitations to come and celebrate her 18th birthday. Technically, I suppose she had a point about her age in one way or another.
Thus, I sincerely hope you too are looking forward to receiving the great gift of an extra day this week. It’s a windfall that won’t come again for another four years. In fact, after this week, it will only happen again seven more times in the first half of this century.
So, think hard about what it is you’re going to do this Saturday, Feb. 29 keeping in mind that it is a day you didn’t have last year and won’t have again next year. So please, make the best of it. You can bet my cousin Anne sure will.