Happy Leap Day one and all – yes, today is the 29th February and a day that we only see every four years or so.  Nothing looks any different, the sun is shining, the world is turning, my girls are at school and I am, yet again, click-click-clicking my way through another blog entry!  So with that strange, almost anticipatory feeling that this day is promising something unusual or even supernatural, we can have a little look at the leap day and what it’s all about….

Why do we Leap?

Good question.  Why do we slot an extra day into the calendar when 28 days of February seems long enough (too long for those already breaking New Year’s resolutions and still paying through the nose for Christmas – ah, everyone then….).  Well it is all to do with the length of our solar year (how long it takes for our planet to complete an orbit of the sun), and our own man-made time keeper – or the Gregorian Calendar.  You see, it would appear that the solar year is not the neat and tidy 365 days that we have decided it should be.  It doesn’t equate to be too far from this figure, but is actually some 365.2422 days long, which means if we just stick to 365 days we are going to eventually see our calendar shifting markedly out of sync with our seasons as the marginal .2422 days slowly add up and become weeks and months of ‘extra’ time that our calendar would otherwise just ignore.

A problem not lost to many throughout history, and one tackled by many it would seem – my favourite solution has to be the Egyptians’, their stance being to add five days of extra festivals and partying to the end of their then 360 day year (and maybe an extra 6 days then, every four or so years?!).  Why extend the length of 12 beautifully even months when you can lump all accrued extra time together at the end of the year and call it party time?!

But with a number of calendars tried and ultimately proving inept, Pope Gregory XIII stepped up and re-jigged the calendar in 1582.  He chopped 10 days from October in that year (to correct the divergence of ours and the solar calendar from past calendar flaws) , and brought in the ‘leap year every four years’ rule, making the year 365.25 days long.  But this was still not quite right, as adding an extra day every four years means that that the discrepancy between the actual length of the solar year and Gregory’s 365.25 proposed length of the year equates to an 11 extra minutes each year – and THAT adds up to a whole extra day every 128 years!!  CLOSE! – but no cigar….

Ah!  So, the final and current solution is thus:  Add a leap year every four years, but if the year is divisible by 100 (1900, 2000 etc) – SKIP IT!  Oh, well, unless the year is divisible by 100 AND 400, we like those, we keep those…. But apparently this keeps us on track, and Christmas falls in winter just after the shortest day, and school summer holidays fall when the days are long and the weather is warm (yes I know, let’s not go there, let’s diss the weather another day).  Fabulous.

Leaping into Marriage!

From this extra day has stemmed some great traditions.  Back in the day the extra day was quite literally leapt over by English Law (Ergo – Leap Day), and was not recognised – it was a day when law did not apply and a break from tradition was considered acceptable.  WOW!  So do you get away with murder on February 29th!?  Can you steal as much as your greedy hands can carry and run for the hills shouting ‘It’s fine!  I’m allowed!’….no, but if you are female, you can ask a man to marry you on this day with the added bonus of compensation in the form of fashion accessories if the blighter actually says no!  Yep, a lady was permitted to propose marriage to a man on this day, and if he declined he had to buy her twelve pairs of gloves in order that she could conceal her bare ring finger and be spared embarrassment and shame through the year at her single status.  Surely you would propose to any man unlikely to accept you merely to get the free gloves?

Bringing it Back to Lullabies

But tradition and interesting facts aside, some people are born on 29th February and therefore only see an official birthday every four years.  This would be an amazing detail to include in a lullaby, particularly when you consider that the leap day is deemed to be lucky, and by extension a leap year.  I truly hope I get to write some lullabies for leap day babies in the future – perhaps even this year!?  If you know of a baby born today and are looking for an extra special and extra unique gift, consider Lullaby Lu – we can translate the fascination and astrological importance of their unique birthday into a magical lullaby that they can treasure forever more.  A leap day lullaby… Now there’s a thought…

Pop over and have a look at the packages we can offer, and have a very lucky leap day! See what we can offer