Today is a day that only comes along every four years or so. No, it's not the quadrennial return of the McRib® to McDonald's...it's something even more fun!
This is a leap year in the Gregorian calendar, so we have a February 29th. Leap year happens in years that are divisible by 4, such as 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, and 2024...except years that are divisible by 100, but not by 400, do not contain a leap day.
All this was worked out by monks many many years ago. I'm sure it made perfect sense to them.
OK, for example, 1700, 1800, and 1900 did not contain a leap day. There won't be one in 2100, 2200, and 2300, so you can mark your calendar accordingly. 2400 will, but you will not be here to see it (unless you are Keith Richards).
Why even have a leap day, you might be asking. You'd like that, wouldn't you? Just forget about leap year, and before too long you'd have chaos in the streets, dogs forming into packs and previously estranged relatives taking trips together to scenic Bayonne, NJ.
Here's the dealio: a complete revolution around the sun takes 365 days and 6 hours, even longer if you have to wait in Waverly for a transfer to the #8 bus. So. Every four years, all those extra 6 hourses add up to a whole day, which we tack onto February, the shortest month and the one that no one even takes the time to pronounce correctly. There is a groundswell of support for adding that extra day to January 1 every four years, for those who need an extra 1/1 to get over what they did on 12/31.
I have a friend who feels that all the years WITHOUT a 2/29 should be called "leap year," because we leap from 2/28 to 3/1 without a look back. I'm sure the next president will look into this.
It's cool that my brother-in-law's sister, born on Feb 29, turned 80 a few years ago, and was able to claim it as her 20th birthday. But in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera "The Pirates of Penzance," Frederic was apprenticed to some pirates as a child until he had had 21 birthdays. As soon as he was 21 he jumped ship, only to be forced to return because he would not have had 21 birthdays until he lived to be 84, which is how old one must be to really appreciate Gilbert and Sullivan.
And the lead pirate asked, "ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRR you 21 or ARRRRRRRRRRRRRR you not?"