By Ma. Cristina Arayata
MANILA – “Thirty days has September.”
Still remember this nursery rhyme? Who could forget its last part that says, “All the rest have 31, except for February alone, which has 28 days clear, and 29 in each leap year”?
Did you ever wonder why we have a leap year every four years? Did it have any significance to you as you grew up?
According to Mario Raymundo, an astronomer of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), we have a leap year just to synchronize the calendar with the astronomical year.
“The complete rotation of Earth around the sun takes about 365.25 days. That means there is an extra .25 or one-fourth of a day every year. That would accumulate every four years, and thus we add one day,” Raymundo told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview on Friday.
The extra day is added to February as the other months have 30 or 31 days, he explained.
For housewives Lovely Canlas and Glenda Flaviano, leap year is just an ordinary day, even if it takes place every four years.
“I don’t plan anything special for February 29. For me, it’s just like any other day in the calendar, not unless I was born on this day,” Flaviano said.
Leap year babies are called leaplings.
Physician Ivan Escartin celebrated his 66th birthday on February 28. He said he would not want his birthday to fall on a leap day.
“I wouldn’t want to change (it) because if my birthday falls on February 29, officially, the celebration would be every four years. Celebrating it every year would be a ‘proxy celebration’,” Escartin said. “At ayokong binibiro ako na, ‘Bata ka pa, 16 years old ka pa lang’ (I also don’t want to be teased that I am still young, only 16 years old).”
Another birthday celebrant, PR practitioner Pamela Cruz said she also does not want to be a leapling.
“Feeling ko kasi iba yung pakiramdam kung minsanan lang yung totoong birthday. Parang kulang. Tipong ang saya magpa-party pag February 29 na ulit. (It would be a totally different feeling if I’d seldom have my real birthday. It would be like, it’s fun to have a party when it’s February 29 again),” Cruz said.
She added that if she were born on February 29, she would celebrate her birthday every March 1 if it is not a leap year.
Meanwhile, the world’s biggest population, the Chinese people, have varying views about leap year and leap day.
Andrew Chia, who resides in Beijing, said leap year is “more of a calendar thing” for the Chinese.
While there are no customs or beliefs shared by most Chinese, those from southern China observe some local customs.
“Women gather to eat and drink in (the) Wuyi Mountain areas. Sons and daughters send shoes to their parents ‘for long life’. Married women go back to their parents’ home to dine with them,” Chia told the PNA via a Chinese messaging app.
People do these regional customs not necessarily on February 29 but any day of February that has 29 days, he added.
“Back in my home province, eastern China’s Shandong province, people do nothing during leap (day),” Chia said.
“It seems that nobody cares about February 29 in China. Everything is fine and nothing has changed,” commented Alex Zhao, a student of the Communication University of China.
Sissi Wang, who has been in the Philippines for some years now, said that basically, leap year has no specific meaning to the Chinese people.
“Because we believe in (the) lunar calendar and all our festival(s). Fortune or bad luck were based on (the) lunar calendar, and February 29 is just special for those who would like to celebrate anniversaries,” Sissi said.
Ernest Wang, on the other hand, noted that because it is unusual for someone to be born on February 29, the Chinese believe that a leapling is special.
“We believe they have some special talent, or their lives will be more special, luckier or worse than (those who have normal birthdays),” he said.
Both Ernest and Sissi co-host Wow China over Radyo Pilipinas.
How about you? How do you find February 29? (PNA)