The Leaplings

by Ron Cook

Every four years a funny thing happens to our calendar. Because it actually takes a little longer than 365 days for the earth to orbit the Sun, those who rule the calendar have decided to add one full day every 4 years to a month that normally is two to three days shorter than all the rest. Because this is a most unusual calendar event, there are also some very interesting factoids that follow this practice. Birthdays, salaried employees and some folk traditions get altered by this quadratic-yearly calculation.

If you are planning a family, and would like to land a child on Leap Year Day (February 29), know that the chance of being born on that day is about 1 in 1461 births. There are only about 187,000 Americans who have had that birthday. My father was one of them. He passed away at chronologically 62, yet only had 15 actual birthdays!

People born on Leap Year Day are called Leapers or Leaplings. Salaried employees may not get an extra day’s pay for working on leap year day. There are some interesting folk traditions associated with a Leap Year. In Ireland, a fifth century tradition allowed a lady to propose to her intended (yet procrastinating) significant other. If he refused to marry her, he was expected to buy her a present or give her cash (a pound, I believe). In Greece, it is considered unlucky to marry during Leap Year. In France, a satirical newspaper is printed only once every four years on Leap Year Day called La Bougie du Sapeur – est sans reproche (which translates, “The Sappers Candle – without reproach”). I wonder if you can buy a copy in Alexandria, Louisiana? It’s put out by a man and some friends from his restaurant in France. It will
probably be online as well.

Leaplings must be very special people if Julius (my father) was an accurate example. He was a rare, wonderful man. But that state is the topic of the next piece we will just call, “Glory.”

May your Leap Year be glorious as you enjoy an additional day of life this year!

Ronald Cook

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