Maybe leap day was a bad idea

By Bruce Stambaugh

I feel sorry for anyone born on Feb. 29. They only get to celebrate their birthday every four years. If it is a century year like 1900, they have to wait eight years.

I haven’t known very many people in my life who were born on leap day. So it’s not like I was influenced to complain about the dubious day on their behalf.

My good wife’s grandmother, Maggie, was a leap day baby. Neva remembers turning 16 the same year her dear grandmother was 16. Indeed, Maggie had to wait eight years before she could celebrate her first birthday. She was born in 1896.

Birthday boy by Bruce StambaughPeople born on Feb. 29 get cheated. Sure they have a birthday every year. But it has to be celebrated on Feb. 28 or March 1 or perhaps a day of their choosing. How would you like to consistently celebrate your birthday on a day other than the actual day?

I understand the reason for leap day. An extra day has to be added, generally every four years, to keep pace with the earth’s real speed of rotation. That fact alone reemphasizes my main point. The current calendar system is inaccurate, messed up, verhuddelt, as the Amish would say.

To make matters worse, leap days usually occur during presidential election years, except on most century years. Do we really need an additional day of negative national campaign hyperbole? The year 2000 was an exception because it was divisible by 400, which is why 1900 wasn’t a leap year.

Green frog by Bruce StambaughNow that I think about it, having a leap day would be an excellent question for the candidates to debate. If you compare that suggestion to some of the idiotic comments and ideas that they have been espousing on their own, I think it fits right into the political verbal fray.

In fact, given some of the witticisms by the candidates so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of them thought leap day was a reference to a frog-jumping contest. Who could argue with that?

Officially a leap day occurs in most years that are divisible by four, like 2012. Years that are evenly divided by 100 do not contain leap day, unless they are divisible by 400, like 2000 was. See what I mean? Unless you’re a math wizard, leap day is simply confusing.

Letting go by Bruce StambaughThis is reason enough to eliminate leap day. If we have to follow all of these crazy exceptions to even have a Feb. 29, why bother? Why not just wait until an entire year needs to be added, and do it all at one time. It would be like an entire year of jubilee, only in reverse. I’ll be dead by then anyhow, so I wouldn’t have to deal with the ensuing consequences.

I am surprised about one thing with leap day. It hasn’t been made a national holiday. What a great way to stimulate the economy? Establish yet another card buying, gift giving holiday, especially right after the sales for Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day. That would put three holidays in the shortest month of the year, a marketer’s dream come true. Sorry. Ground Hog Day doesn’t count.

In all seriousness, if you were born on Feb. 29, I wish you a happy birthday. If my birthday fell on Feb. 29, which it doesn’t, I would only be 17 this year. On second thought, let’s just keep the calendar the way it is.

Author: Bruce Stambaugh

Writer, marketer, columnist, author, photographer, birder, walker, hiker, husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, township trustee, converted Anabaptist, community activist, my life is crammed with all things people and nature and wonder. My late father gave me this penchant for giving and getting the most out of life, my late mother the courtesy, kindness, and creativity to see the joy in life. They both taught me to cherish the people I am with. I try and fail and try again.

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