Today is the 107th Leap Day. We can thank a pope for that. Gregory XIII. If he hadn't revised the calendar in 1582, we might one day be hunting for Easter eggs around the Christmas tree.
It's all because we revolve around the sun. One time around is actually 365.24219 days. We compensate for the decimal portion by adding an extra day every 4 years. Well, mostly we do. That would be a smidgen---0.0781---too much over time. So we tinker a bit more by eliminating years divisible by 100 but not by 400. 1900 did not have a leap day. 2000 did. This is not for the mathematically-challenged.
Anyone born on a Leap Day is known as a leaper or a leapling. One of my favorite opera composers was an Italian leaper, or maybe more correctly, a leaperello. He is best remembered for the overtures to his operas. Gioacchino Rossini was born in 1792. He may be best known for the William Tell Overture, more familiar to Americans as the Lone Ranger theme.
On Leap Day in 1940, Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for her role in "Gone with the Wind". She couldn't sit at the same table with her co-stars. She was seated in the back. Hollywood obviously has made a great leap in racial relations since then.
Leap Day is also known as Sadie Hawkins Day. It's the day on which a woman is empowered to propose to a man. In Britain and Ireland, the man who doesn't capitulate must pay with a kiss, or a monetary pound, or a silk gown. In Denmark, a dozen pairs of gloves. In Finland, cloth for a skirt.
But a wedding in Greece on Leap Day---and throughout the year--- is thought to be unluckly. Even a big fat one!
Filed under: history