If, like me, you always feel as if you could use an extra day to get everything done then you’re in luck in 2016: as we get an entire extra 24 hours. Yes, this year we have 366 days because it’s a Leap Year (as as opposed to a common year, which has a mere 365 days).
There’s a long-winded, mathematical explanation, but the canned version is that, essentially, we need Leap Years to keep our modern day Gregorian Calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. Because seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in the equivalent of 24 hour periods (or full days), calendars that have the same number of days in each year drift over time.
If we didn’t have an extra day in February every 4 years, then after only 100 years our calendar would be inaccurate by 24 days!
Although the observed and calculated versions of the Islamic calendar do not have regular leap days, (even though both have lunar months containing 29 or 30 days), generally in alternating order, the tabular Islamic calendar used by Islamic astronomers during the Middle Ages and still used by some Muslims does have a regular leap day added to the last month of the lunar year in 11 years of a 30-year cycle.This additional day is found at the end of the last month, Dhu ‘l-Hijja.
Why “leap year”? While a fixed date in the Gregorian calendar normally advances one day of the week from one year to the next, the day of the week in a leap year will advance two days, from March 1st onwards, because of the extra day added at the end of February, thus “leaping over” one of the days in the week. For example, March 1st fell on a Sunday in 2015, but will fall on Tuesday this year, effectively “leaping over” Monday.
Naturally, some quirky leap year traditions have evolved over time: In Ireland and Britain, it is a tradition that women may propose marriage only in leap years. In some places the tradition was tightened to restricting female proposals to the modern leap day, February 29. In Finland, the tradition is that if a man refuses a woman’s proposal on leap day, he should buy her the fabrics for a skirt. Since 1980, a satirical newspaper entitled La Bougie du Sapeur is published in France only on February 29th every leap year.
And what of those people unlucky (or maybe lucky) enough to be born on February 29th? Firstly, they are known as “leapling” or a “leaper”. In common years, they usually celebrate their birthdays on February 28. In some situations, March 1 is used as the birthday in a non-leap year, depending on local laws. Technically, a leapling will have fewer birthday anniversaries than their age in years. This phenomenon is exploited when a person claims to be only a quarter of their actual age, by counting their leap-year birthday anniversaries only (hmm, not a bad idea, maybe?).
Personally, I’m going to regard this February 29th as a Bonus Day and instead of trying to keep any New Year’s Resolutions (so 2015!), I’m resolving to do some much-needed de-cluttering, spring cleaning, call it what you will, as I’m always saying I don’t have time to do it I guess there’s no time like February 29th!
So, what might you do with a bonus 24 hours? It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as a marriage proposal – or social media cold turkey – but a few of the things you could manage in a bonus 24hour period might include:
- Taking the day off work and explore your home city, which is full of hidden gems and wonderful people;
- Enjoying a long, lazy brunch with your family and/or friends – time is the most precious gift we can give those we love (and maybe leave your phone in your handbag);
- Tick something off your bucket list, as long as it can be done in 24 hours (or a long weekend);
- Spend some time volunteering for an organisation such as Kay’s Place or Operation Hope;
- Pay someone a visit whom you’ve not seen in ages;
- Spend the day learning a new skill, whether it’s creative or practical.
The possibilities are endless and the best part is that you won’t be losing any precious time, so instead of the inevitably pointless New Year’s Resolutions (what were they now?), how about making just one Leap Year Resolution happen?
Lynda Higgs is a photographer and writer, with a passion for Street and Mobile Photography. You can follow Lynda Higgs on Instagram @thesometimephotographer or Facebook: LyndaHPhotography To find out about purchasing fine art prints of her work or enquire about workshops contact Lynda at www.lyndahiggsphotography.com.