2012-02-29 / Editorials

Celebrate Leap Year 2012 With The Gazette

Every Wednesday is special in the Gazette offices. Wednesday is the day we “hit the street” in the parlance of the newspaper trade and we are proud to say that since we started publication in 1982, we have yet to miss one.

Today is special for more than being the latest in the unbroken string of Wednesdays that have seen the Gazette bringing the exciting, unusual and relevant to you, our readers. This is also Feb. 29, 2012, a day added to the 365 days that make up an “ordinary” year to make this Leap Year. As explained in a story in last week’s paper, every four years, under the civil, or Gregorian, calendar, an extra day is added to February. This is done to keep the manmade calendar in sync with the astronomical or seasonal year.

In the Gregorian calendar currently in use worldwide with the exception of the Russian and Iranian calendars, there is a leap year every year divisible by four except for years which are both divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400. Therefore, the year 2000 was a leap year, but the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. The complete list of leap years in the first half of the 21st century is 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024, 2028, 2032, 2036, 2040, 2044 and 2048.

Those individuals born on February 29, according to astrologers, are born under the sign of Pisces and have unusual talents and personalities reflecting their special status. People born on February 29 can choose to celebrate their birthday in non- Leap Years on February 28 or March 1. Leap Year babies share their special status with, among others, Ja Rule, rapper (1976), model and actor Anthonio Sabato Jr. (1972), singer Dinah Shore (1916), Bandleader Jimmy Dorsey (1904) and Italian opera composer Gioacchino Rossini (1916).

The tradition of women romantically pursuing men in Leap Years began in 5th century Ireland, when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for men to propose. Patrick set February 29 aside as the day allowing women the right to ask for a man’s hand in marriage. Queen Margaret of Scotland declared in 1288 that on February 29 a woman had the right to propose to any man she fancied. Men who refused were fined in the form of a kiss, a silk dress, or a pair of gloves given to the rejected lady.

Cartoonist Al Capp in the Li’l Abner comic strip created a modern American tradition in Sadie Hawkins Day, honoring its namesake, “the homeliest gal in the hills”. Sadie and every other woman in town on that day could pursue and catch the most eligible bachelors in Dogpatch. Capp placed Sadie Hawkins Day in November, but today it has become almost synonymous with February 29.

February 29 also plays a pivotal role in The Pirates of Penzance, a Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera produced on Broadway and as a motion picture. Its central character, Frederic, seeks to lawfully end his pirate apprenticeship on his 21st birthday, but since his birthday falls on February 29, technically he will not reach his 21st birthday and so will remain a pirate until he is in his eighties.

Internationally, 56 countries today observe Rare Disease Day, calling for more research into illnesses that have no known cure. On a less serious note, international women’s football meets to compete on Feb. 29, 2012 in the annual kickoff to the Algarve Cup in southern Portugal.

The vagaries of the calendar and the rules of astronomy that govern our solar system have brought us an extra day to do with whatever we may choose. We hope you enjoy this February 29, whatever the reason.

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