Unlike Kenny, who seems, if we are to believe the opening words of his New Year’s Address, to doubt his subjects’ awareness of 2016’s leap year status with its accompanying Summer Olympics, this time round in Brazil, I am quite convinced that many, if not most of you, Dear Readers, will recall that the first yeap Year, with its leap day on February 29, was introduced during the reign of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar over 2,000 years ago, even if you weren’t around at the time.
As the PM quite rightly divined, this year is a leap year, with 366 days instead of 365, so we will have an extra day to till our soil and make our harvest more abundant than ever before. Now, despite our Leader’s firm belief that an extra day will offer untold opportunities for “better days to come” – yes, we are reduced to hoping for miracles to produce all those promised jobs some five years ago – everyone who earns a monthly salary will actually work an extra day for free. There’ll be no extra day’s wages in February for those with a monthly pay packet unless, of course, the PM decides to compensate today’s Saint Lucians for Caesar’s importunities.
By the way, Irish legend has it that St Brigid struck a deal with St Patrick centuries ago to allow women to propose to men every four years. Leap day was known as “Bachelors’ Day” when a man was expected to pay a penalty of 12 pairs of gloves to hide the lady’s embarrassment of not having an engagement ring if he declined her proposal.
In Scotland, Queen Margaret, aged just five, supposedly declared in 1288 that a woman could propose to any man she liked on February 29, but she was required to wear breeches or a scarlet petticoat to do so (Kenny’s SLP was around even then).
It was considered unlucky to be born on leap day; even today, Greeks consider it unlucky for couples to marry during a leap year, and especially on leap day. I believe that as many as one in five engaged couples in Greece avoid getting married in a leap year for fear of bad luck. Just in case you’re interested, and it doesn’t really matter if you are not, leap day is also St Oswald’s Day, named for an archbishop of York who died February 29, in the year 992.
The leap year’s extra day is necessary because a complete orbit around the sun takes slightly longer than 365 days; 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds longer, to be exact. Caesar ordered his astronomer to simplify things, which is why we have a 365-day year with an extra day every four years to use up the extra hours. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough for people who didn’t wear Rolexes.
The system was eventually fine-tuned under Pope Gregory XIII when it was declared that a year that is divisible by 100, but not by 400, is not a leap year, which is why 2000 was a leap year under the Gregorian calendar, as was 1600 but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. So you see, leap years do not necessarily occur ever four years. In fact, you can surely work out whether the year 2100 will be a leap year or not; I mean it’s best to be out in good time if you are to till your soil that day to improve the economy like Kenny says.
In Italy legend has it that women are erratic – the Italians have a weird concept of what constitutes erratic behaviour – during leap years; “Anno bisesto, anno funesto” means “leap year, doom year”. In places before climate change was invented, like Russia, a leap year was likely to bring freak weather patterns and a greater risk of death. Russian farming folklore says beans and peas planted in a leap year “grow the wrong way”. Scottish farmers believe leap years are not good for crops or livestock; “Leap year was ne’er a good sheep year,” they say, or as one wag put it, “Bad news for ewes!”
As mentioned earlier, workers who are paid fixed annual or monthly salaries work for free on February 29 because wages are not usually calculated to account for the extra day. And prisoners with one-year sentences must serve the extra day if the term crosses leap day, not that that would matter in Saint Lucia where people regularly serve years before being sentenced. Shouldn’t lawyers bear the blame for that?
There’s even a name for today’s 5 million people who were born on February 29; it’s “leaplings” or “leapers”. The chance of being born on a leap day is one in 1,461 (4 x 365 plus the extra day) as you have probably already worked out. For centuries, astrologers believed children born on leap day had unusual talents. In the traditional Chinese, Hebrew and Hindu calendars a whole leap month, known as an embolismic month, rather than just a day, is added to the year, which would kinda lend some sort of credibility to Kenny’s faith in the work performed on this extra day, or month, saving his ass in this election year. I wonder where that expression came from; why ass? Must be ethnic. Gotta get my ass out of here