Topsy-turvy February

👤Charlynn Toews 🕔Feb 01, 2012

We can be warned to “Beware the Ides of March” every year. The ides, or midpoint of March, proved fatal to Julius Caesar, who was stabbed by a group of conspirators.

We have to wait four years to enjoy the topsy-turvy nature of leap-day, however. But February 29, 2012 is here at last!

These days we know that a year is about 365 days and six hours, so we “add” a day every four years to keep our calendar aligned with the seasons. In ancient times (more than 2,000 years ago), a 13th month was inserted as a leap month every two—or three—years.

That was mighty confusing, so Pope Gregory had a crack at it. His approach was to drop 10 days from October of 1582, the first year his calendar was adopted. Many people objected to having days “stolen” from them.

Leap years, months and days have always had a mixed-up quality to them, magically adding and subtracting days as if we could speed up or slow down the passage of the earth around the sun.

Superstitions have grown up around it. One legend has Saint Bridget complaining that women had to wait for men to ask for marriage and Saint Patrick offered her the chance to turn the tables every seven years; she bargained him down to four.

Leap-day babies are said to be favoured by fortune and a leap year is an excellent choice to start a business or other important projects. Here are some special events—whether good or bad or just unusual I leave you to determine—from leap days gone by.

On February 29, 1980, Gordie Howe of the then Hartford Whalers made NHL history as he scored his 800th goal, while Jeanne Sauvé was appointed first female Speaker of the House of Commons in Ottawa.

On February 29, 1984, Pierre Trudeau announced his resignation as Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, after some deep thinking during a walk in a snowstorm the previous night. When asked why he chose February 29th, he replied, “Well, because it’s a good day. It’s the first day of the rest of my life—it seemed like a good day to have a last day.”

That day, in the BC Legislature, NDP MLA Al Passarell (Bulkley Valley-Stikine) stood up to say, “When it comes to hydro development, we have always thought that we have to build big and spend big. What I would like to look at is a program for job creation in the far north with mini-hydro projects.”

Meanwhile, recorded in the Mining Recorder’s office at Smithers on February 29, 1984, five claims northeast of Terrace were staked. Gold, silver and copper-bearing veins were seen to occur as fissure fillings in volcanic host rocks on these properties.

On February 29, 1988, Prince George Spruce Kings Defenceman Jeff Forsythe was born.

Calgary hosted the first Winter Olympics in Canada. Unseasonably warm temperatures led to the headline: “The Winter Olympics?” Calgary’s temperature was 18°C; in Miami it was 19°C.

“Floodplain dynamics of a wandering river” was accepted for publication, a study of the Morice River by Northwest Community College’s Allen S. Gottesfeld and Leslie M. Johnson Gottesfeld of Kitwanga.

The Morice River, the major tributary of the Bulkley River, is forested and little disturbed by human activity. It is a wandering multiple-channel river and shows evidence of frequent channel changes that have reworked most of the floodplain several times in the last 180 years.

See you in four years, February 29! Happy wandering through the solar system until you come back to visit us again.