Monday, 29 February 2016

Happy Leap Day!

Yes, today is 29th February. It only comes around once every four years.
Being a bit of a calendar nerd, I feel like I should celebrate today in some way, but I'm not sure how! According to the Intertubes, there are several traditions and superstitions surrounding Leap Years. The most common one is that women are allowed to propose to men during a leap year, or sometimes only on the actual day itself. Apparently it helps if you wear a scarlet petticoat as well. That's a bit old-fashioned! Besides, it's too late -- I'm already married. And yes, I proposed to him! By email. It was about as new-fashioned as you can get.

Thankfully Husband accepted my proposal, otherwise he would have had to pay a fine: a rose, 12 pairs of gloves, fabric to make a skirt, one pound stirling, or a kiss, depending on the tradition you follow.

Continuing the theme of gender reversals, a seventeenth-century play asserted that women wear breeches in a leap year, which is a little more progressive at least.

In Greece, it's considered unlucky to get married in a Leap Year, so you'd have to wait a while before following through with the proposal. A recent survey found that one in five Greek couples plan their weddings around this superstition.

The Summer Olympic Games is held every leap year, though apparently this is a coincidence. The campaign to revive the almost 3,000-year-old tradition began in 1894, with the Games themselves being held in 1896. Back then, I guess two years was a reasonable amount of time to allow, to organise such an event. As much as I love the Olympics, they're usually held later in the year due to Northern Hemisphere Summer, so there's not much point in celebrating them in February!

In the early- to mid-20th-century, it was a common tradition for bars and hotels in the U.S. to create a signature cocktail that was only served on 29th February. The most famous was invented by Harry Craddock, the legendary American barman who transferred his trade to the Savoy Hotel in London during the Prohibition era. Here is the Leap Year:

2 oz gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1 dash fresh lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass. Serve with a twist of lemon peel on top.
It's a shame I don't have any Grand Marnier in my liquor cabinet right now!

Of course, the Gregorian calendar isn't the only one in existence, and the concept of a leap year appears in most systems to make sure the years run smoothly. This includes the Islamic calendar, Hebrew calendar, Hindi calendar, and the Chinese lunisolar calendar. This year, the Year of the Fire Monkey, is coincidentally also a leap year.

To me, because 29th February comes around so rarely, it seems like a good day for doing something I wouldn't normally do often. I might need to do a brainstorming session to think of what some of those things might be! I'll write about it next time. Meanwhile: Happy Leap Day!


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