|[a] Leap Feb RF|
|[b] Leap RF|
|[c] Nope RF|
Happy Birthday, Tony (Awaken the Giant Within) Robbins.
So I have a quick question. Do Leap Day kids (or adults) celebrate a Leap Day birthday differently than the other three in the cycle? Is it extra-special?
This is structure and culture, stuff, and I will be devoting a new series to it soon on Round and Square. The structure does not allow the little cherub to celebrate on 2/29 three out of every four years. That is a calendrical structure and it cannot be willed away; a child (and family) must choose. Choosing to celebrate on 2/28 or 3/1 (or 1/1 or Super Bowl Sunday or Armistice Day) is the choice that intersects with structure. Assuming that people will celebrate on a day near the vanished 2/29 is culture (not to mention a fair dose of common sense). So what do Leap Day birthday folks do? I am looking forward to hearing your comments on the matter. How do they "negotiate the structures" of intercalation?
|[d] Yup RF|
But what if you were a former Prime Minister of India, born on February 29, 1896? How many leap days would you have passed before you...well...before you became prime minister in 1977? "Well that is simple," I hear you mutter. "It's the same as before, and we won't forget Prime Minister Desai's day of birth in 1896 this time. It's one for every four years...duh."
Seeing my impatience, you begin to count, exaggerating the years for their effect on this question-asking moron. "1896, 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912...do I really have to continue with every American presidential election and summer Olympic Games (scheduled, but some canceled because of World Wars)?"
"Yes, please proceed."
|[e] Computing RF|
"Well, duh yourself," I reply.
Only calendrically aware Leap Day babies (or really old ones) know this bit of Gregorian trivia. Desai was, indeed, eighty-one when he became prime minister, but he had only lived through twenty Leap Days. How is this possible? Structure, event (choice), and culture—that's how. Born in 1896, Desai enjoyed his first Leap Day on February 29, 1896 (the British pretty much forced the use of the Gregorian calendar; colonial power is like that).
|[f] Structure and event RF|
So what's up with that?," I hear you cry. "No Leap Day in 1900? Was there a war or something?
Yes, there was a war or something. There is always a war or something, but it doesn't have much of anything to do with the calendar.
|[g] Calendrical drift RF|
No, that would be rather imperfect, my friend. It's about 365.25. It actually is 365.242199 days (365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 46 seconds). Those lost eleven minutes and fourteen seconds can start to add up over very long stretches of time. So how do we resolve the unchanging structure that is the year with the calendar? And don't get me started on the fact that "the year," too, is in a long process of change, or we'll never finish. Great minds have struggled through time with this question. Here's how they do it deep in the heart of Gregoria: they skip February 29th in "00" years that cannot divide evenly into four hundred. That means that, out of every four hundred years (let's say 1601-2000) there will be 97 leap days rather than 100. In its own culturally strategic way, it comes close to resolving those problematic little eleven plus minutes of shortfall, year after year.
And don't get me wrong. 11:14 can add up. Just ask "Julian."
|[h] Text 11:14|
And you can also seriously mess up the agricultural life of your people if you let those minutes and seconds add up over, say, a few millennia. Even if you just let them accumulate over several centuries, they will start to gum up that calendar on your castle wall. Next thing you know, the vernal equinox is ten days early. Next thing after that, Ben Franklin goes to bed (early) on September 2nd and wakes up (early) on September 14th. That's pretty jarring, but it is how structures rear their mighty strengths..and human beings (eventually) deal with them—negotiate them.
Enough of that for now. You don't need to spend all of Leap Day reading about Leap Day, even though I haven't even begun discussing the other little adjustments that are made—like adding an extra second to a year every now and then. We've just covered the big issues of Leap Day, and we'll leave further micro-calendrical calculations for our Structure, History, and Culture series (starting next week).