I’ve always been fascinated by leap years.
As a kid, I’d think about the ramifications of being born on February 29. It was scary. Birthday parties meant oodles of fun back then. There’d be all kinds of games and trips to amusement parks and skating rinks. I liked the birthday parties of my neighborhood friends, but I really liked it when it was my birthday. Nothing like opening up my presents.
But had I been born on February 29, I’d only be able to be the star of my own birthday party once every four years. That just wouldn’t do. Mom liked to send Jody and me to Sunday school at the United Brethren Church in Rialto, the denomination she was raised in when a kid in Rittman, Ohio back in the 1930s and 1940s. I always thought Sunday school was a good time to thank the Lord for not sending my stork down from Heaven on February 29, 1952. I was quite happy being born on November 20, 1951.
Mom tried to educate me. I was a thickheaded child, though. “It doesn’t matter, Mike,” she told me more than once. “If you’d been born on February 29, we would celebrate your birthday on February 28 during non-leap years. You would never go without a birthday.”
Mom had a natural expression that said “I’m your mom, I dress you in funny clothes because I know better than you about such things as style and leap years.” So I suspected she was right. Had I been unfortunately enough to be born on February 29, I’d still get my birthday presents even during the years a February calendar ended on February 28.
I never knew anybody born on February 29. Nowadays, with the Internet and social media, I can immediately discover folks with birthdays on February 29 – film and TV actor Antonio Sabato, Jr.; rapper and actor Ja Rule; TV and movie actor Dennis Farina; Big Band leader Jimmy Dorsey, and author and poet Howard Nemerov. Just think if their ages had only the February 29 dates counted as years. Dorsey was only fifty-three years old when he died in 1957. But think how different Dorsey’s obit would read had it only included the specific date of February 29. “Famed big band and swing music conductor and saxophonist Jimmy Dorsey, 13, passed away in New York City on June 12, 1957, less than six months after the death of his brother Tommy.”
The Las Vegas weatherman was predicting a record temperature today – in the low 80s. The previous record is 76. But new records are easy to set on February 29, since – oh, well – since you don’t have 120 years of records, just thirty.
For you techno-geeks, leap years are needed to keep the Gregorian calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. It takes the Earth approximately 365.242189 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds – to circle the sun. This is called a tropical year, and is measured from the March equinox.
However, the Gregorian calendar has only 365 days in a year, so if we didn’t add a leap day on February 29 nearly every four years, we would lose almost six hours off our calendar every year. After 100 years, our calendar would be off by around 24 days. Now that’s almost as scary as being born on February 29.
I’m an author with three published novels — The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The three belong to a trilogy, Larenia’s Shadow. You can buy them on the websites of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’m currently writing a Civil War novel with a mystical/supernatural feel to it. I’m calling it Blessed Shadows Deep and Dark.