Friday, February 29, 2008


Today is February 29th, or Leap Day, so…Happy Birthday to all those born on this date. You are now officially one year older than you were four years ago, if you go by the Gregorian calendar that is. There are many kinds of calendars currently in use in the world. Most of the world uses the Gregorian as a kind of standard, to keep things from getting really messed up. But apparently the Berbers of North Africa still use the Julian calendar, and they do all right. The rest of the world’s calendars all are pretty much only religious in nature now, as near as I can tell. There’s a Coptic calendar, a Hebrew one, one for the Hindus. And we can’t forget the famous Chinese one (they get a whole Leap Month – woo hoo!). There’s an Islamic calendar too, but anything Leap is forbidden, so their holidays kinda keep drifting around. The Iranians do get to leap, and have what is described as the most accurate calendar of all. I checked it out, but there’s way too much math involved for my liking. However, if you feel like taking a crack at it, here are a few handy facts (taken, with thanks, from good old Wikipedia) to help you get the drift, so to speak.

A leap year (or intercalary year) is a year containing one or more extra days (or, in case of lunisolar calendars, an extra month) in order to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. For example, February would have 29 days in a leap year instead of the usual 28. Seasons and astronomical events do not repeat at an exact number of full days, so a calendar which had the same number of days in each year would over time drift with respect to the event it was supposed to track. By occasionally inserting (or intercalating) an additional day or month into the year, the drift can be corrected. A year which is not a leap year is called a common year.

In the Gregorian calendar, the current standard calendar in most of the world, most years that are divisible by 4 are leap years. In a leap year, the month of February has 29 days instead of 28. Adding an extra day to the calendar every four years compensates for the fact that a solar year is almost 6 hours longer than 365 days.

However, some exceptions to this rule are required since the duration of a solar year is slightly less than 365.25 days. Years which are divisible by 100 are not leap years, unless they are also divisible by 400, in which case they are leap years. For example, 1600 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. Going forward, 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, 2600, 2700, 2900, and 3000 will not be leap years, but 2400 and 2800 will be.

There! Now you can plan ahead for the rest of the millennium. As for what music goes with the occasion (other than a few rounds of Happy Birthday) I couldn’t think of any vintage rock and roll song that celebrates Leap Year. However, there appears to be at least two contemporary songs mentioning Leap Year on YouTube. I gave them a listen, and while very nice, they just didn’t reach out and grab me. At least not for a post about a day who’s sole duty is to correct the drift of time. So here’s my pick (and I know you see this coming)… The Drifters, featuring one of the truly great voices of all time - by anybody's calendar reckoning – Mr. Ben E. King.

“I have counted every day…”

1 comment:

Quiet Paths said...

Leap years; I'd forgotten how all that reckoned in with the calendars. Thanks for the refresher and the other tidbits about the future!