Feb 29, you guys!
This is just the second time we’ve had a Feb 29 since we turned the key on the lighthouse back in 2011. It’s weird that they call a year with an extra day a “leap” year, because we’re not actually leaping over anything, are we? In fact, if anything the non “leap year” years should be called leap years because we “leap” right from Feb 28 to March 1. In leap years, we just patiently wade through the day, pretending everything is normal, like we are all in on some cosmic prank, and then proceed on to March 1st tomorrow. Maybe we should call them prank years?
It’s also the name of a delightful Rom Com (romantic comedy) starring Amy Adams and that thin chap from Downton Abbey who likes to drive fast cars (no, not the one that died. A different one.) In that film, they say that a man cannot refuse a proposal from a LADY if that lady makes a marriage proposal. I don’t know about that. I’ve never heard of such a thing, but JUST IN CASE I am not going to the BAR tonight after work. I am just getting some groceries. I should be safe in the produce section, but if I see any RANDY ladies coming my way I will be on ALERT.
But you didn’t come here to discuss Amy Adams movies, did you? She is lovely though, isn’t she?
Back to science:
The weird thing is that if you think that a leap year means just adding an extra day every four years, you would be WRONG. Julius Caesar tried just that (the Julian Calendar) and in 1582 the darn thing was OUT by 10 days. Pope Gregory was all “eff this! I’m just taking those ten days out of the calendar BECAUSE I’M the frickin’ POPE” and modified the Julian calendar so that 3 out of the 4 centennial years are just NORMAL years. Another way of saying it is that if you are in a centennial year and can divide it by 400, no problem. Go ahead and add that Feb 29, BUT IF YOU CAN’T DIVIDE IT BY 400, just treat it like a normal. So that’s why 2000 was a leap year BUT 1900 WAS NOT. Mind blown yet? This became known as the Gregorian Calendar (for Pope Greggors!), and it’s the one we use today. And you can just imagine the confusion in the middle of 1582 when all of a sudden people were 10 days older (or younger, I’m not sure how it actually worked.) In any case, people were FREAKED. Looking back on it now, we could smile and say, “oh those silly medieval types! Always getting freaked out by calendars and eclipses and THE BLACK DEATH and whatnot”, but you know what? People STILL get freaked out over Leap Years. Did you know that some people gripe that they have to work an extra day in a year but their annual salary doesn’t change? (Chill, people, yes we have an extra day in 2016 but guess what? That extra day is a Saturday, so unless you happen to have the misfortune of being labeled a #saturdaylibrarian as the ol’ champ does, you should just sit back and enjoy this.)
BUT WAIT! Some places still used the Julian Calendar, and the longer they waited to covert to the Gregorian Calendar, the more days they had to add. Russia and Greece didn’t convert until 1918 and 1923, respectively, if you can believe it. Some Eastern Orthodox churches still use the Julian Calendar to determine their special days, like Easter, which is kind of ironic because the whole reason why Pope Gregory made the change from the Julian Calendar was because he liked to have Easter as close to the Spring Solstice as possible. (Who DOESN’T?) In fact, if we stuck with the Julian Calendar without any corrections, today would actually be in the middle of July 2017. (Which actually doesn’t sound that bad considering it’s -36 with the windchill today and I would have seen Rogue One by then).
It all comes down to the Earth’s orbit around the sun. It actually takes the Earth 365.242159 days to go around once, which is annoyingly close to 365.25 days, BUT NOT CLOSE ENOUGH, which has caused us to go all out of sync. I guess it’s just God’s way of saying “Haters gonna hate, but I’m just going to do my thing.” (Or maybe if you were reading the King James’ Version it would be “Rebukers doth rebuke”?)
In any case, this Gregorian calendar with its weird “divide a centennial year by 400 and see what happens” has kept us on an even keel for a while, but it’s still not perfect. In fact, even by doing it this way, we’ll end up adding an extra day every 3,300 years. No one really wants to think about that, because let’s face it: none of us is going to be around when it becomes a problem. Heck, none of us will be around when we next skip a leap year in 2100. Well, I shouldn’t say that. My daughter would be 91. She’s really tough. She got the swine flu when she was just a few months old and fought it off on her own. (And before you say I am a terrible parent, we COULDN’T give her the vaccine. She was too young.) Her resilient little heart and determined spirit really rallied and if anyone makes it to the year 2100, I’m betting on her. And maybe by then she’ll have discovered this blog and maybe she’ll think back to this post about leaping over leap years and smile. Or not. The timelines are so far beyond our human sized scales, it makes you want to sit down and be all quiet for a bit.
In some ways, it makes all of our day-to-day irritations seem meaningless when measured against the cosmos, and yet maybe that’s just the point: everything we ever do or have ever done really happens in such a small, tiny compressed amount of time compared to Earth’s irregular orbit that maybe we should just all try to enjoy the time we have together and make the most of it because before we all know it, we’ll be ten days out, (or six feet under) and then being forced to work an extra Saturday against our will won’t seem like such a burden.