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Patty Craig: Leap Year

A Slice of Time

This week we have a February 29th. This means that 2012 is a leap year, having 366 days instead of 365 days. So, 2012 will have 24 more hours this year.

This additional day once every four years keeps the calendar year in sync with the astronomical or seasonal year. The earth’s orbit around the sun isn’t completed in exactly 365 days. By adding this day, we compensate for the fact that our 365-day year is shorter than a solar year by almost six hours.

What about a February 29th birthday? According to the Internet, these people usually celebrate their birthdays on February 28 or March 1. Since March 1 follows February 28 in a non-leap year, it may be used more often to celebrate the birthday.

Leap year also has some unique folk traditions:

•    In the British Isles, women traditionally might propose marriage only on leap years. Supposedly, a 1288 law required that a man refusing a marriage proposal pay a fine. In order to soften the blow, compensation might be in the form of a kiss, a small amount of money, or a silk gown. In some places, the tradition restricted female proposals to the modern leap day, February 29, or to the medieval leap day, February 24.
•    Denmark’s tradition was that women might propose on February 24, and that a refusal must be compensated with 12 pairs of gloves.
•    In Finland, if a man refused a woman's proposal on leap day, he was expected to buy her the fabric for a skirt.
•    According to Greek tradition, marriage in a leap year was considered unlucky. One in five engaged couples in Greece will avoid getting married in a leap year (Wikipedia).

When I was a child of about 10, I heard about these traditions in school. I clearly remember thinking that I had a while before I had to think about marriage. And, being female, I didn’t like the idea of proposing at all (Is that gender bias or just fear?).

What will we do with the additional 24 hours that 2012 brings? Many people might say, “It’s just another day.” Or, “It’s an opportunity to earn a little more money this year.” Those things are true, but I prefer thinking of those hours as a bonus. I’ve thought about sprinkling a few additional naps throughout the year. And, I’ve thought of choosing one day and doing something – I’m not sure what – that is totally outside my routine.

Since this is a leap year, we have another day of choices. Though we can’t know what the future holds (James 4:14), thoughts of a bonus day sure do make me smile.


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