Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Born on 29 February

Tomorrow we will celebrate a colleague's birthday. She was born in 1968 and has only had 9 birthdays so far. AY was born on 29 February.

February 29th, or bissextile day, is the 60th day of a leap year in the Gregorian Calendar. A year which has a February 29 is, by definition, a leap year. This date only occurs every four years, in years evenly divisible by 4, such as 1988, 1996, or 2008, with the exceptions in century years not divisible by 400, such as 1900.

Those who are born on this day usually celebrate their birthdays on February 28th or March 1 during non-leap years. In the UK those born before noon on the 29th have their birth certificate dated the 28th, those born after noon are dated 1st March. I find that strange, why not just date the birth certificate February 29th?

There is a quaint tradition that women may make a proposal of marriage to men only on February 29; this is a tightening of an older tradition that such proposals may only occur in leap years. In 1288 the Scottish parliament legislated that any woman could propose in Leap Year. Another component of this tradition was that if the man rejects the proposal, he should soften the blow by providing a kiss, one pound currency and a pair of gloves (some later sources say a silk gown). There were similar notions in France and Switzerland.

AY promised to bake two cakes so I am already looking forward to the yummie sweets tomorrow.

AY is the second person I know who was born on February 29. I had a schoolmate at University who also looked much older than her age.

How many people do you know that were born on February 29?

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