Leap year reminds us to seize every day

With the passing of 2015 to 2016, we have moved from a common year to a leap year, which we will celebrate by adding a day this month — Feb. 29. Leap years occur about once every four years, though the Gregorian calendar, the standard calendar for most of the world, removes three leap days every 400 years.

While I don't intend to try to explain all the scientific intricacies of the leap year, just be assured that it is man's way of keeping the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year. For example, the Gregorian calendar was designed to keep the vernal equinox on or close to March 21. Or, another way of looking at leap day is to realize that it is a corrective measure because the Earth does not orbit around the sun in precisely 365 days.


Another interesting phenomenon occurs in the Hebrew calendar. A thirteenth lunar month is added seven times every 19 years as a way to celebrate the holiest day, Yom Kippur, at a precise time as prescribed by the Old Testament.

As we get older we often complain that time passes too quickly. But how about those people born on a leap day, called leaplings or leapers — do they just age once every four years? No such luck! But here we are being handed an extra day right here near the end of winter. We might rather have that extra day when the weather is warm — just another indication that we're never satisfied!

In Ireland and Britain, there is a tradition that women may propose marriage only in leap years; but in Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky. Traditions, just like calendars, can be very different.

When I asked several people about the added day, my cousin said she will clean the house. I cannot imagine that, considering her calendar has probably been filled with a doctor's appointment, a store run and a lunch date. For some of us it might be just another day to commiserate about our ailments, or make still another doctor's appointment, or just sit and vegetate, all things that are necessary, too.

Adding another day to our already older lives should be a big deal! The question becomes, what will we do with this extra day?

Will we use the day to visit someone who would love our company? Will we talk by phone with someone who is lonely? Will we drive someone to an appointment or to the store? Will we assist the less fortunate by volunteering to help them? Will we volunteer our time in a school to help children learn? Will we write a check to support a worthy cause?

Will we write a poem or a book? Will we paint a picture? Will we exercise our physical bodies and nourish our spiritual souls?

Whatever we do with this one extra day is really not the issue. Because time is man-made and the brevity of life is all too apparent, the question is what will we do with all 365 or 366 days in a calendar year? What we do with our lives every day, not just one day every four years, is what really matters — and that includes today, Valentine's Day!

As the writer of Psalm 90, Verse 12, says, "Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom."

Hermine Saunders writes from Westminster. She can be contacted via email at