Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Leap Year

Ahh, it's the 29th February. It's that extra day added to every fourth year that makes up for all the extra minutes created 12 months due to the solar year not quite being exactly 365 days long. It was even worse in the time of Julius Caesar, where a year only had 355 days, and every 2 years an extra 22-day month was added!

The 29th February is the day that a girl can break with tradition and ask a man to marry her. In Denmark it's the 24th of February, and should a man refuse her proposal, tradition says he must buy her 12 pairs of gloves. You would think by now women would have updated this to be shoes or handbags instead.

What a romantic month February is, first Valentines Day and now this proposal-of-marriage day at the end of the month. I wonder if anyone has fallen in love at the start of the month, sent the Valentine on the 14th, and then rounded it off with an engagement at the end?

It is believed that this tradition goes back to a time when the leap year day was not officially recognised in English law. A bizarre notion. No doubt then if a woman was to propose on said day, it would not be legally binding.

I found a fascinating use of 29 February by Christopher Columbus in 1504. Failing in his negotiations with an island's people, and knowing that a lunar eclipse was due, which makes the moon appear red, he told the leaders that God would turn the moon red in anger if they refused to help. Naturally this came to pass and in their panic they agreed to his terms, and hence the moon returned to normal.

I also found that the first warrants for witchcraft were issued in Salem on 29 February in 1692.

So the day has significance in many ways, lovely, cunning and horrible, but it's probably the woman proposing that it is most remembered for these days.

Better hit the shops and get those gloves in.

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