Why should frogs have all the fun? The concept of Leap Day has always captured my imagination, named in such a way as to invite boldness, a time to try out a new behavior or idea, a designated opportunity to bring freshness to life.
This quirky day, designed to bring synchronization between the solar and calendar years, dates far back in history. Julius Caeser (hence the Julian calendar) instituted the extra day to compensate for the roughly extra quarter day each year that separates the two calendars. However the actual difference is slightly less than a quarter day. It is eleven minutes and fourteen seconds less. In my growing respect for how small increments create big change, it is not surprising that these minutes would eventually throw the calendar off course by a full day, and it is Pope Gregory XIII who is credited with adjusting the formula to eliminate a leap year three times out of every four hundred years. (hence the Gregorian calendar) The rule is, a century year cannot be a leap year unless it is divisible by four hundred, thus 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, but 1600, 2000, and 2400 all are. With this method, it will take 3,000 years to give one extra day. How this conundrum will be handled?
Some of the traditions around Leap Day include the dated Irish tradition that women could propose to men on that day. It is also sometimes called Bachelor’s Day and in European countries the understanding was that (upper class) men who refused a woman’s proposal on February 29th had to buy her twelve pairs of gloves (supposedly to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring.) This does conjure tremendous fashion possibilities, and certainly lots of business for the glovers of the time. Yes, this is what glove makers are called. Today they would move to Virginia, which is known for Glovers. Would they give twelve pairs of the same boring white gloves, or would it include leopard, red, blue, rainbow, and stripes? And would they include hats to match the gloves, or would that be considered gauche? These are the questions that vex.
I propose that Leap Day be considered a personal opportunity to break free of the mundane, to celebrate initiative and reward inventiveness. Employees should be given the day to research new material, to seek new business or to sit still, whichever is most unfamiliar. I love that this day occurs to pay homage to inexactness, to the effort to coordinate and to create a common language by which (much of) our world speaks of days and years. It is a public declaration that we honor the sun around which we cycle each year, and over which we hold no sway. We cannot move or change the sun, we can only adjust our own behavior and measure to accommodate our relationship to it.
What an important concept to remember and reminds ourselves about. It is a piece of structure around which our most creative selves can and do emerge. It is within a framework that our most striking achievements develop. Everyone’s Leap Day will look different, but may it be a time for adventures as large as visiting a new country to as small as changing up our morning routine to try a new cereal or coffee. It feels good to stretch ourselves. We need to have faith that possibility lies within our capability. What better invitation than a day named for this jump?