Tuesday, February 28, 2012

 366 DEEG AM JOER! (Let’s leap ..)

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
February has twenty-eight alone,
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting leap year, that's the time
When February's days are twenty-nine

(Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme)

2012 is a Leap Year/Bissextile year (Schaltjoer). A leap year consists of 366 days whereas common years have 365 days.

Earth orbits the sun every 365.2422 days (solar year). Leap years are needed to keep our Gregorian (civil) calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. Every four years 1 day is added, February 29, called leap day or intercalary day with one exception: century years are not leap years unless they can be evenly divided by 400.

The Egyptians first began using a calendar with a leap year during the Ptolemaic Dynasty (330-30 BC). Later, the Romans adopted this solution for their (Julian) calendar however the practice was inconsistent. It was not until 1582 when Pope Gregory introduced the Gregorian calendar that intercalary years became official.

Leap day traditions are a mix of folklore, myths and superstitions. Most seem to center around the custom that this was the one day when women were allowed to propose marriage to men without social restrictions. Legend dates this back to 5th Century Ireland when St. Brigid complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for so long for a man to propose. In 1288 Queen Mary of Scotland (allegedly) passed a law to allow women to propose to men, and if the proposal was rejected, a fine was incurred. By the late 1800s into the early 1900s, Leap Year themed parties, teas and dances and the sending of humorous postcards were amusing ways to celebrate the day.

In Luxembourg we have a somewhat similar tradition with “Bretzel Sonndeg” (Pretzel Sunday) which takes place on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Boyfriends offer their beloved a pretzel (dough pre-cooked in boiling water and knotted in a unique shape) and the girls will return the favor on Easter with a colored or a chocolate egg (more on "Bretzel Sonndeg" later). In a Leap Year, the roles are reversed.

As I mentioned in my previous post, during a Leap Year a Stréihfrächen (straw woman) is burnt in Remich on Ash Wednesday instead of a Stréihmännchen (straw man).

People born on February 29 are called “leaplings” or “leapers”. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Everybody should enjoy this extra day and ladies, look before you leap! 

No comments:

Post a Comment