Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - February 28, 2020

I looked before I leapt

Unusual events often spark an idea that leads to a column. Such was the case this week when I noticed tomorrow is Leap Day. All sorts of thoughts began going through my head. I mentioned it to husband Art and he told me a story about his uncle and February 29. So, slowly and deliberately, I began formulating what a column might look like.

Then an air of unease settled over me. While Leap Day only occurs about once every 1,500 days and so is fairly unique, that very fact may mean I wrote about it before. Time to check.

Sure enough! In 2004, when my "Snapshots" was published in the local Riley Countian and wasn't yet posted online, I explored the topic pretty extensively. I wonder if there is enough material left for a new column?

Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Feb. 26, 2004

Leap before you look

This coming Sunday - Leap Day - is an almost once-every-four-years occurrence. Although some might complain that it's just one more day in the dreary month of February, I look at it as a bonus - a day to celebrate. I don't know what form that celebration might take, but I'm sure I'll think of something. If I can't come up with ideas on my own, I can always turn to the Internet for inspiration.

Web sites are full of information about Feb. 29 - ranging from very scientific explanations as to why we need Leap Day to keep our calendar on track, to bits of trivia on who was born and what events occurred on this date throughout history.

Some version of the rhyme we learned as kids helps us remember how many days each month, including February, has:

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
All the rest have thirty-one
excepting February alone:
Which hath twenty-eight, in fine,
'til Leap Year gives it twenty-nine.

The ditties the girls, Art and I learned varied somewhat from that one, but they still did the trick.

Our solar year - the time required for the Earth to travel around the sun - is 365.242190 days. Our calendar year is either 365 days in non-leap years or 366 days in leap years, when we add Leap Day.

According to information at www.mystro.com/leap.htm, the original Roman 355-day calendar had an extra 22-day month every few years to maintain the correct seasonal changes. By the time Julius Caesar took reign, the seasons no longer occurred during the same months they once had. He remedied this in 46 B.C. by throwing out the extra month and adding an extra day to a few months instead. For good measure, he also named a month in honor of himself - Julius (July). The calendar was changed again, first from an extra day every three years to one every four years, in 8 A.D. It was then modified again by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. He determined that leap days should not occur in years ending in 00 unless they were also divisible by 400.

Only one in 1,461 people is born on Feb. 29. Some Web sites recommend special parties and menus for leapers - those born on that date. Frog legs and grasshopper pie seem to be top choices for food. The Honor Society of Leap Day Babies encourages leapers to join, and it even has a "leapzine."

I don't know anyone born on Feb. 29, but Art's son Matt and his Uncle Art share Feb. 28 birthdays. Uncle Art thought he was a Leap Day baby until he applied for a passport at the age of 65 and found out his birthday was one day shy of giving him this special status.

A few of the famous people born on this date include:

1736 - Ann Lee (Mother Ann), founder of Shakerism in the United States
1792 - Gioachino Rossini, composer of the opera, "The Barber of Seville"
1904 - Jimmy Dorsey, band leader
1924 - Al Rosen, Cleveland Indians third baseman
1936 - Jack Lousma, astronaut
1948 - Al Clark, football player
1972 - Antonio Sabato, Jr., actor

The History Channel site lists the following events which occurred on Feb. 29:

1288 - Scotland established this day as one when a woman could propose marriage to a man. The idea originated in Ireland in the fifth century when St. Bridget convinced St. Patrick to allow one day when a woman could propose marriage. Sadie Hawkins Day is a modern-day spin-off.

1860 - The first electric tabulating machine - the forerunner of the calculator - was invented by Herman Hollerith.

1932 - Bing Crosby and the Mills Brothers teamed up to record "Shine."

1940- Hattie McDaniel was the first black person to win an Oscar. She won best supporting actress for her role as Mammy in "Gone with the Wind."

1964 - The United States was in the grip of Beatlemania. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was in its fifth week at number 1 on the pop charts.

What I do Leap Day probably won't be on the History Channel and it won't be a chart topper either. But whatever I do, I plan to enjoy it. Maybe I'll even take a chance on something totally off the wall and leap before I look!

Well, that old column touched almost everything I had in mind. Even that story about Art's uncle was in there. Oh, I have a few new things. For one, that website mentioned has vanished. Al Rosen died in 2015 and Al Clark passed just three months after the column was published. And the History Channel? It is just called History now.

A few others include:

- The first arrest warrants for the Salem witchcraft trials went out on Feb. 29, 1692.
- Sweden and Finland added a Feb. 30 in 1712 to help synchronize their outdated Julian calendar with the new Gregorian one.
- In 1928, someone came up with a Leap Day cocktail. Concocted by Harry Craddock at London's Savoy Hotel, the recipe included gin, Grand Marnier, sweet vermouth and a dash of lemon juice.

But that is hardly enough for a new column. Still, I am glad I looked before I leapt onto this week's column. I'd hate to repeat myself!

Comments? [email protected].
Other columns from 2020 may be found at: 2020 Index.
Links to previous years are on the home page: Home