It’s Leap Day!

February 29, 2020 at 10:29 am | Posted in Chinese Calendar Tales, Chinese customs, Chinese Zodiac, Leap Year | Leave a comment
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Screen Shot 2020-02-29 at 10.33.42 AM

Illustration credit: Harry Harrison, The Tale of Run Run Rat

And how fitting that Leap Year 2020 is the Year of the Rat! Or that’s what Run Run Rat thinks, anyway! Because that’s how Run Run won the Olympics Marathon in The Tale of Run Run Rat, by leaping over the shoulder of the lead runner, who was built like a buffalo! (And of course quite coincidentally 🙂, the Rat won Lord Buddha’s Race, to place first in the Chinese Zodiac…by leaping over the Ox’s shoulder!).

So to celebrate this special day, 29th February, I thought it would be fun to find out some fascinating Leap Year facts! Here we go:

  • Leap Years contain one extra day, of 24 hours, because the Earth takes 365 days PLUS 6 hours to orbit the Sun! (This is known as a Tropical Year). So by adding (4 x 6) hours to the calendar every four years, our Gregorian calendar keeps pace with astronomy!
  • So they occur every 4 years – or, to put it another way, every year that is an integer (ie can be divided by to leave a whole number) of 4. Thus this year, 2020, can be divided by 4 to equal the whole number 505!
  • BUT you have to leave out the “century” years eg 1800, 1900, 2100, EXCEPT those that can be divided exactly by 400 (eg 1600, 2000) because a Tropical Year is just slightly shorter than 365.25 days (365.242190 days long, to be exact)! Phew that’s tricky!
  • If you are born on a Leap Day, you are called a leaper or a leapling! Technically, this means you can only have a true birthday every 4 years, which is rather sad when you’re young, but on the other hand, when you are 84 years in physical age, you can justly claim to be just 21 years old! Now I can think of a few adults who would be happy with that!
  • But never fear, the law says that if you are a leapling, your annual birthday is deemed to be either February 28 or March 1, depending on where you live. So you can still get birthday presents and a cake each year!
  • The comic super-hero Superman is a leapling! DC Comics, publishers of the Superman series, thought of this clever device to explain why Superman apparently never ages!
  • On Leap Day in Ireland, called Bachelor’s Day, women have traditionally proposed marriage to men, rather than the other way round. And if the man refused, he had to give the woman a new silk dress (or, by the middle of last century) a fur coat! Now that’s a handy way to get a new wardrobe!
  • In the Chinese and Jewish Calendar, which are lunar calendars, Leap Year adds on an extra month to the calendar! In the Chinese version, the extra month has the same name as the previous lunar month. In the Jewish version, it’s called Adar, and is extra-lucky!

So if you are a leapling, I wish you an incredibly happy Birthday, worth four times as much as a normal birthday!

But remember, always look before you leap!

Ram pagespread #2

Illustration credit: Harry Harrison, The Tale of Rodney Ram

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