From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The concepts of the leap year and leap day are distinct from the leap second, which results from changes in the Earth’s rotational speed.
The leap day was introduced as part of the Julian reform. The day following the Terminalia (23 February) was doubled, forming the so-called “bis sextum”. The first day of the bis sextum (February 24) came to be regarded as the intercalated or “bissextile” day. February 29 came to be regarded as the leap day when the Roman system of numbering days was replaced by sequential numbering in the late Middle Ages.
There is a tradition that women may make a proposal of marriage to men only in leap years, further restricted in some cases to only February 29. There is a tradition that in 1288 the Scottish parliament under Queen Margaret legislated that any woman could propose in Leap Year; few parliament records of that time exist, and none concern February 29. Another component of this tradition was that if the man rejects the proposal, he should soften the blow by providing a kiss, one pound currency, and a pair of gloves (some later sources say a silk gown). There were similar notions in France and Switzerland.
A person who was born on February 29 may be called a “leapling”. In non-leap years they may celebrate their birthday on 28 February or 1 March.
1468 – Pope Paul III (d. 1549)
1916 – Dinah Shore, American singer (d. 1994)
1956 – Aileen Wuornos, American serial killer (d. 2002)
1972 – Antonio Sabàto, Jr., Italian-born actor
1972 – Pedro Zamora, Cuban-born American AIDS activist (d. 1994)
1976 – Ja Rule, American rapper and actor
And on a personal note, this day brings a bit of fear to my mildly superstitious mind. In nearly every leap year since the year I was born, something horrific has happened to myself or a member of my close family. And I seriously mean horrific: cancer; a stroke; a near-death bout of meningitis resulting in a deaf ear; a tractor explosion resulting in 85% 3rd degree burns and six months of hospitalization; a rather eventful divorce; an emergency circumcision; and a family viewing of “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot”. I know it sounds extremely dramatic (and perhaps a bit too telling), but I’m not making this shit up. 2008 is so far so good, but I will live in fear each day until 2009.