Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Happy Birthday"

I have always sympathised with those who have the misfortune of being born on Christmas (Dec. 25).  Usually their "special" day is overshadowed by all the hoopla and tradition of Christmas, sort of leaving the birthday as an afterthought...."Oh, and by the way, happy birthday to Junior too."  Junior ends up feeling pretty un-special!

Their misfortune pales in comparison to those poor souls who were born on February 29!  Their "special" day only comes around every four years!  To be strictly factual, they don't have an actual birthday to celebrate in a normal year.  A makeshift substitute is usually chosen so that poor Junior gets to mark the passage of another year in his life, but it ends up being Feb.28 or March 1, which really doesn't have the same panache at all!  I don't know anyone actually born on Feb 29, but if it were to have happened somewhere in my family, I'm pretty sure that every 4th year when Feb 29 showed up there would have been a great big celebration to sort of make up for the lack in the other three years.  But that's just us, we tend to mark special things with a bit of "over done!"  :)

So for all of those who are actually celebrating their "real" birthday today, I wish you many happy returns of the day.  I hope you stuff four years' worth of goodies and partying and happiness into your SPECIAL day.  Happy Birthday!

Of course, this situation comes along because of the earth's lack of symmetry in making that annual trip around the sun.  In a perfect world, the trip would take exactly 365 days; but it's not a perfect world (as we all know!)  In reality the trip is 5 hours and change longer than exactly 365 days.  In essence we ignore those hours for regular years.  But if we don't add in that extra day every four years to catch up, we would be 24 days behind at the end of 100 years.   The seasons would be screwed up.  The calendar would always be wrong.  No one would be able to agree on what time it was.  You would never know if you were early or late!  After 500 years, without those adjustments, chaos would ensue.  

So by throwing in an extra day (Feb 29) every four years we avoid all that mess.  Very clever.  An easy fix (sort of).  I don't know who it was who first discovered the extra hours.  Nor do I know how the world managed to get everyone to agree to throw in that extra day.  It must have happened centuries ago, because our current world can't seem to agree on ANYTHING, much less something as monumental as adding a day!  Nevertheless, somehow it did happen and we are all living with the result....Leap Year!

I hadn't ever really thought too much about the name of this phenomenon, Leap Year.  As I think about it now however, I really think that whoever chose that name, really got it wrong!  A leap is defined as "to spring through the air from one point or position to another."   Well, we don't spring from anywhere to anywhere else in Leap Year, at least not in the way I understand the words.  We add hours.  We put in extras.  We adjust.  We fix.  We regain that which has been lost.  But we don't leap!  I think it should have been call something else.  Something that reflected the actual action and reason for the addition of that day every fourth year.  Something like "WEDGE YEAR!!"  Don't you?

Though all those folks born on February 29, probably wouldn't like it.  Synonyms for wedge include cram, jam, stuff, crowd, squeeze.  They aren't particularly happy words, they are about making something fit into a space that is too small with an object that doesn't belong there.

Those Feb 29 babies already feel like they don't belong, we don't need to make them feel worse!!
I guess we'd better stick with "leap!"   :)

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it's called leap year because we have to take a "leap of faith" when electing the upcoming President. That is sure a leap in this day and age. Talk about not being able to agree on anything!
    I have a friend in his 80s who was born on the 29th of February. He said so legally he is still in his 60s. LOL! I guess that makes it all okay!


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