Palate Cleanser: Some Leap Year Fun

Palate Cleanser: Some Leap Year Fun

The Leap Year day may have already passed (and we won’t get that extra day again until 2020) but it’s still a fascinating subject. Take a minute to peruse some neat trivia and history about the day that is meant to account for the extra six hours it takes the Earth to revolve around the Sun every yearand what that can teach us about the way we look at time and our lives.


Did you know that before Julius Caesar came along, the Romans created an extra month to account for Leap Years? Or that certain century-years (1700, 1800, 1900) didn’t have Leap Years while 1200, 1600, and 2000 did? Check out this guide on the history of the Leap Yearfor similar tidbits of information that are guaranteed to be good party-conversation material. Also, did you know that Leap Year days carry a long tradition of women proposing to men? Or that the basis of this tradition has been the cause of some pretty insightful controversy? Check it out.


LitReactor recently ran a flash fiction contest centered the Leap Year: 29 words, winners announced on February 29th. (The winning pieces are located toward the bottom of the page.) And if you want another laugh, check out their April Fool’s contest.

The Leap Year has showed up in art in some surprising ways. In comics, Superman was born on February 29th (although he celebrates two birthdays), and in quite a few different mediums, a Leap Year birthday has been used as an excuse for a character aging at a slower rate than the rest of the world. These are only some of the tropes that have wound up associated with the 29th.

Main Course

What is it that’s so fascinating (or at least, interesting) about the Leap Year? I think it stems from the oddness of this extra day, how it sticks out as an outlier in an already odd month (even with that added day, February is still short of being as long as all the other months). There’s something special about this day, its rarity making it feel earned. Thus, we have traditions like women proposing to men (regardless of how one feels about the tradition or its underlying social implications), and the odd sort of prestige earned by being a Leap Year baby. Our celebrations are a reflection of a deeper, shared cultural feeling toward… what?

It seems to me that the appeal of the Leap Year is that time changesbriefly, for just a day, it warps and expands to accommodate 24 extra hours. Hours that we don’t get every yearhours that feel special because we didn’t get them last year and won’t have them again next year. Those hours are unusual, they are absurd and they are a reminder of the man-made nature of time, that we have chosen to measure it in such a way that requires a fluke-day.

But… do we really get more time? Or is it just that we’ve overlaid a natural phenomenon with a faulty system and we’ve just convinced ourselves that we have 24 extra units, increments, by which to measure our lives?

Or, can we take the freebie that we’ve given ourselves, and enjoy the fact that we get a few bonus hours to experience the world and live our lives?

This isn’t to say that you should spend every February 29th doing something grand or crazy that you wouldn’t do otherwise (that’s why we have birthdays and New Year’s Eve!), just that if you let it, this catch-up day could be a way into reflecting on the nature of time and our passage through it.

I guess at the core, what I’m getting at is this:

How are you spending your time?

How should you be spending it?

And are your answers to the first two questions the same?


Speaking of time, how much of it do you dedicate to your writing? If you’re like me, the answer might be a little discouraging. (I wrote a memo today! Does that count?) Do you have that novel in mind, planned out and ready to go… but you just can’t get yourself to sit down to write the damn thing? How do you even start? How do you keep going? Well, here’s a cool day-by-day breakdown by Chuck Wendig at How to Push Past the Bullshit and Write that Goddamn Novel. Going off his model, all you have to do is write 350 words on 260 days out of the year (and that doesn’t even account for Leap Years!)… starting now.

Twisty puzzles offer an entertaining way of improving your dexterity and problem solving skills.

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