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Happy birthday to my leap year cousin

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Column by Jim Clark

Wednesday was my cousin’s birthday. If you look at the calendar, you’ll know why that is such a big deal.
Her birthday only comes once every four years. She was born on Feb. 29, I won’t say what year.
I can remember it being awfully hard to explain to a 5-year-old why her birthday is a date that isn’t on the calendar and has to be celebrated either the day before or the day after. That’s a tough thing to deal with at an early age.
Her birthday started me thinking about how many famous people were born on that date. I investigated, and this is what I found.
Band leader Jimmy Dorsey.
Baseball player Al Rosen of the Cleveland Indians.
Burlesque star Tempest Storm.
Astronaut Jack Lousma.
Hockey player Henri (“Pocket Rocket”) Richard.
Law and Order actor Dennis Farina.
But the one that really intrigued me was this guy born in Germany in 1904: Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe-schlegelsteinhausenberdorft Sr., Germany; had a Christian name for every letter in the alphabet, shortened it to Mr Wolfe Plus 585 Sr. The world’s longest name officially used by a person.
Next question: Why do we have a Feb. 29 anyway? Why do we have a leap year every four years? Why do we have a leap year in 2000, but not 1900 (there is no Feb. 29 in the turn of the century year unless it is divisible by 400).
I guess most people know that some genius figured out that we need an extra day every four years to keep our calendar in sync with the climate. So I tried to do the math.
If you take away one day every four years, that means we would lose 24 (or in some cases 25) days a century. That means that by the time we get to the year 9012, it would be hot in January and cold in July.
Personally, I’m not going to worry about that, but if some people want to make sure that future generations have their weather in the proper months, that’s OK with me.
But why give us an extra day in the winter. Why not a June 31, so we have an extra day of summer?
It all goes back to the Gregorian Calendar, then the Julian Calendar under Julius Caesar. The explanation, which was based on religious reasons, is far too long to go into here, but go to Wikipedia online and you can read all about it.
One more question: Why do we have our presidential elections in leap years? Wouldn’t it be nice not to give them an extra day to campaign, to call us at home, to bombard us with junk mail?
I can’t wait for 2100, which won’t have a Feb. 29 because it’s not divisible by 400.
By then, I’ll be about 157 years old.
At that point, I doubt if I will care that the candidates have one less day to call me.
Anyhow, back to the original premise of this column: A belated happy birthday to Jeanie, and to all the other “leapers.” Wednesday was your day. I hope you enjoyed it.

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen. He can be reached at 352-854-3986 or at editor@smcitizen.com.