Leap Year Day Lore and Legends About The Bonus Day
Monday, February 29, 2016
By Dikki-Jo Mullen, Astrologer and Parapsychologist
“Keep time with a leap now and then” was among the humor, art and poetry that celebrated this unique day in another leap year nearly two centuries ago. Originally published in the 1820 (a Leap Year) edition of The Farmer’s Almanac. 2016 is a Leap Year. Monday, February 29, 2016 is Leap Day, the rarest of days, is tacked on to the end of Valentine’s month. It makes some hearts will rise and others sink, confused and disoriented. Perhaps you have not seen it coming when out and about away from your calendar and date book. Yesterday was February 28 and tomorrow is March 1, but what’s in between? Many electronic calendars and perpetual date books miss it totally. This complicates the issue further.
Some of us might arrive for an appointment a day early. Those who are scrambling to meet a March 1 deadline can suddenly be gifted with an extra day. The 24 hour grace period can be used to tie up loose ends or just to rest and procrastinate before the onset of the new month. Of all the delights and frustrations the 29th of February can bring perhaps the souls born on February 29 can experience the most extreme feelings. This is the most infrequent of birthdays. Perhaps that’s why a mystical, nonconformist kind of life path is often followed. Mother Ann Lee, who founded the Shakers, was a leaper or leapling, as leap year babies are called; but then so was Aileen Wuornos, Florida’s notorious serial killer. Leapers must cherish each birthday, remembering that ‘less is more’, for they can only celebrate once every four years. That why they borrow February 28 or March 1 as a birthday once in a while.
The fixed star Skaat in Pisces is close enough to impact Leap Day astrologically. A 4th magnitude star in the leg of the Water Bearer, its keywords are intuitive, nervous, visionary and illusionary. In the first decanate of Pisces, this shows a double Neptune, a strong water rulership.
The relevant Sabian symbol for Leap Day is “An aviator in the clouds”, the keyword is observation and brings the gift of superior perspective. An exploratory and otherworldly quality is present. In the Tarot The High Priestess is linked to Leap Day, further indicating depth, mysterious wisdom and hidden messages.
To keep the calendar in synch an entire day every four years is just a bit too much, so occasionally Leap Year is skipped. In 1700, 1800 and 1900 there were no Leap Days added to the calendar in order to keep the record straight. However in 2000 the 29th of February appeared again. Leap Day is unique, it just can’t be anything other than an extraordinary day.
In antique shops sometimes vintage postcards greeting Leap Days from the early 20th Century can be found. There was also a Leap Year Waltz written. A popular film “Leap Year”, starring Amy Adams was released in 2010. Set in Ireland, the plot revolved around the longtime custom of celebrating Leap Day as Bachelor’s Day. It was the only time when a lady could rightfully propose marriage to a gentleman. In earlier times it was considered a very fortunate day to agree to a proposal for singles of either gender. However if a bachelor did want to refuse he had to gift the rejected lady with a new silk dress to get off the hook.
Plan to savor and celebrate this Leap Day. An intercalculatory calendar day, it was gifted to the mini month of February. Do you welcome it or tend to trip over it? Either way it’s there if there is hesitation take a leap of faith and accept it as a gift. It is about extra time, the most precious and irreplaceable of all commodities.
With all of this hassle can’t we skip Leap Day? The answer is absolutely not! Except for the Chinese Calendar and a few other alternatives such as the Hebrew Calendar, or Native American Medicine Wheels, the calendar used by most of the world today is solar based. It is oriented toward Earth’s trek around the Sun. There is a glitch. We have a neat and tidy 365 day calendar, but the Earth’s orbital time is actually 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45.51 seconds. Almost 6 hours over 4 years adds up to nearly a whole day. That’s why we must include an extra day sometimes to stay in synch with the solar system. The road to this realization has been a surprisingly bumpy one. The arrangement of days that make up our familiar and beloved calendars came about after centuries of valiant and off target attempts to keep track of time.
The ancient Egyptians managed with 12 months of 30 days followed by 5 feast days, a vacation, at the end of the year when everyone celebrated. By 238 BC, in the time of Ptolemy III, it became obvious that an extra feast day would have to be added every 4th year. This wasn’t acceptable, since the Egyptians worked according to the seasons of agriculture. If the calendar wasn’t adjusted it could be midsummer and a freeze would arrive. Romulus, the first King of Rome, devised a system of 10 lunar months in the 8th Century BC. Since the Moon’s cycle isn’t consistent, the 10 month calendar would need even more time for feasting allowed to keep up.
Another Roman, Numa Pompilus, shortened some months and used the left over days to create January and February. This year was too short so he added an intercalendary 27 day cycle called Mercedonious. This leap month was supposed to be added in every other year. However, the criminal minds of the officials in charge of things misused it. The bad guys extended terms of political office or changed debt collection dates among other sleazy activities, until eventually Mercedonius just vanished.
When Julius Caesar came to power in 47 BC the calendar said it was January, but Mother Nature indicated autumn harvest season. Caesar did a really bright thing, he called in a top notch astrologer for help. A 90 day fix was added. Ever since 46 BC has been called The Year Of Confusion. It had 445 days. However the calendar was back in tune with the seasons. The next year a nice, neat 365 day calendar with a leap day added every 4th year was implemented. This is the famous Julian Calendar. For a long time this seemed fine. However do you remember that extra 1/4 or so day? By 1582 it added up to 15 days and the seasons were getting askew again. A great Italian astrologer, Aloysius Lilius, came to the rescue. He designed a new calendar, the one we use today. Since this happened when Pope Gregory was in power, it was named the Gregorian calendar. We call it the New Style Calendar and it is the one we use today. The Julian Calendar is The Old Style Calendar. The Julian Calendar was still in used in some places through the early 20th Century.
To keep the calendar accurate every time the year ends in 00 we skip Leap Year. That’s unless the 00 year is divisible by 4 with no remainder. That’s why 2000 was a Leap Year, but 1900 wasn’t. So why is this called Leap Year? That’s another story. In a normal year, the day of the week aligned with a date moves forward one day each year. If your birthday was on Tuesday this year, it will be on Wednesday next year. That is unless it’s Leap Year; then the spare day moves forward or leaps the weekly sequence ahead.
Leap Day is now becoming a popular modern holiday. Don’t let it fall into a chasm, smile at its checkered past and celebrate with good humor. Most February 29 babies do. They can take any time they please for a birthday celebration, except during the rare years when the gift of the extra day rolls around.
February 29, 2020 will be the next Leap Day.
There are many instances in literature where a person’s claim to be only a quarter of their actual age turns out to be based on counting their leap-year birthdays. A similar device is used in the plot of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance: As a child, Frederic was apprenticed to a band of pirates until his 21st birthday. Now, having passed his 21st year, he leaves the pirate band and falls in love. However, since he was born on February 29, that day will not arrive until he is eighty-four. As such, he must leave his fiancée and return to the pirates. It may be worked out from the opera’s dialogue that Frederic’s birthday is February 29, 1852, thus making the opera set in 1873. (This assumes that Frederic is aware that 1900 will not be a leap year. If not, the dates would be later by four years.)
A. Conan Doyle also used in a Sherlock Holmes story where a Baronet who is due to receive his inheritance on the New Year’s Day of the year where his twenty-first birthday will be celebrated, only for the law to deprive him of the money as he was born on February 29. At age 84 the elderly Baronet is distraught at the news that 1900 is not a leap year, Sherlock Holmes helps the Baronet fake his death long enough for his grandson — who is the appropriate age to receive the inheritance — to establish his claim and receive the money himself.