Leap Day

Once every four years we get a Leap Year.  That’s only because once every four years we also get a Leap Day.  But of course, that doesn’t include the Leap Seconds that are also taken into account.  There sure seems to be a lot of leaping going on today in the world.

If we remember our science class lesson about the earth’s orbit, we know that our planet completes a revolution around our sun in 365 days, five-hours, 49-minutes and 16-seconds, exactly. We also know that our calendars usually indicate 365 days.  We also recall that every four years we get a calendar that shows 366 days.  This pretty much compensates for the inexact time of orbit as measured in days.

To further tweak the reckoning, end of century years are not leap years unless they’re exactly divisible by 400.  By that figuring, 1700, 1800, 1900 nor 2100 work out as regular years, while 1600, 2000 and 2400 show up as Leap Years. To further complicate the arithmetic in this scheme, we have Leap Seconds.  They do not figure directly into Leap Years and orbital travel of the earth.  Leap Seconds compensate for the imprecise nature of the rotation of the planet every 24 hours–a day.

All of these numbers and arbitrary assigning of Leap Days some years and the absence of the same the rest of the time, makes for some interesting complications.

gratuitous cute critter photograph

I’m thinking especially about my friend, Sam, from Toronto.  He was born on February 29, 1954.  Sam is 58 today.  Yes, Sam, you should receive your greeting card today if the U.S. and Canadian postal departments jibe correctly.  Sam has two days in which to celebrate his birth.  This year it’s today.  Last year he celebrated on the 28th.

He used to be a bit sensitive about all the fuss because his mother likes to refer to Sam as her sweet little Leapling.  That is what kids born on February 29th are called. Leaplings….  Sam says he’s pretty much gotten over it, but he considers himself by the other term.  Sam tells me he’s a bissextile.  He loves how people’s eyebrows rise up whenever he mentions it.  Yes, Sam is my bissextile friend.

Sam and I share a love for ancient Roman culture , so we appreciate the reference to bissextile people from Roman days. The last day of Februarius or Terminalia was on the 23rd of Februarius.  So the 23rd was doubled giving us “bis-sextum” or a double sixth.  The 24th of Februarius figures out to be the sixth day before the Kalends of March.  So the old system had 24th of Februarius as the bissextile day, or Leap Day of the old Roman Calendar.  After the Third Century, the bissextile day, by default, became the 29th of February.

I hope you have a happy Leap Day, today.  Oh, in case Sam doesn’t receive his card on time, may my bissextile friend enjoy a very happy birthday with many pleasant returns.


The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that motivational guru, Tony Robbins, is among the list of leaplings celebrating their real birthdays today.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Friendship, History, Youth and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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