Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Monday, February 29, 2016


Higgledy piggledy,
Emperor Julius
Looked at the calendar,
Saying, “Oh, my!

“If we add one Dies
We won’t have winter
Show up in July!”

Today is the civil calendar’s rara avis: Leap Day, the intercalary day inserted once every four years. There is an exception: Centennial years not evenly divisible by 400 do not include an extra day, thanks to Pope Gregory. That exceptional year next occurs in 2100, extremely unlikely to be in the lifetime of anyone reading this.)

By coincidence, this year in the Hebrew calendar (5776, which is also the square of 76) is also a leap year. Hebrew leap years take place seven out of every nineteen years, which makes their occurrence somewhat more frequent than Gregorian leap years (36.84% versus 24.25%), and they’re more dramatic: A whole month is added, not just a single day.

We’re about two-thirds of the way through that extra month now, which means that the Jewish holidays for the balance of the year will seem late according to their Gregorian dates. It’s why Passover will begin in late April - four weeks after Easter, rather than at roughly the same time.

In American popular culture, Leap Day is sometimes conflated with Sadie Hawkins Day, the day on which unattached women in Dogpatch would try to outrun the town’s bachelors in a footrace, the (male) losers of which would have to marry the (female) winners. Sadie Hawkins Day was the creation of Al Capp, who drew the popular Li’l Abner comic strip in which the event first appeared in November 1937. In a testament to the pop culture influence of the funny pages, the fictional “holiday” actually caught on in many places across the country.

From Li’l Abner, the eponymous Sadie Hawkins wrestles with spinsterhood at the advanced age of thirty-five.

Laughably sexist notion that it is these days, there are still plenty of locales (high schools?) that still actually celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day, usually without the finality of the original(!) While some do so on November 15, many people consider February 29 to be Sadie Hawkins Day in view of an old British and Irish tradition that held that women were permitted to make marriage proposals only on Leap Day.

Al Capp, incidentally, was Jewish - which makes one wonder whether we Red Sea Pedestrians should observe a whole Sadie Hawkins month. Yeef.

1 comment:

Pat said...

I heard Al Capp speak at Ga State my Alma Mater back in the 60s. The odd thing was he had an artificial leg. A bit of trivia.