Leap year myths!

Date: 7th February 2012

Even elementary school students know that every four years February has 29 days instead of 28 because the planet makes 366 revolutions around the Sun, not 365. On January 1, 45 B.C. the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar introduced a calendar that was based on the notion that the astronomic year is approximately 365.25 days (or 365 days and 6 hours). Every four years there was a full extra day. Despite the simple explanation, people have always feared a leap year. Moreover, the many superstitions about a leap year have survived to this very day. KW decided to check how true these superstitions actually are.

Myth No. 1: Life is better without changes

It is widely believed that a leap year should not end in major purchases and distant trips. Even dying hair or changing hair-do is ill-advised. Speaking about changes of the workplace or starting up a business is also completely taboo. Explaining this superstition is impossible, though most people are convinced that the leap year is not suitable for any new beginnings. Psychologists believe that due to this extra day of the year the customary vision of the world is altered and people, as a rule, are afraid of anything “supernatural”. Nevertheless, statistics show that in a leap year apartments are sold, new workplaces become vacant and business flourishes. After all, who in the world would turn down an advantageous offer only because it was proposed in a leap year?

Myth No. 2:

Mortality plummets

It is believed that in such an uncommon year the mortality rate increases all over the world. However, official statistics are incontrovertible: the number of people that are born in a leap year remains standard. In Ukraine the number of deaths per year remains stable at 700-750,000. In 2007, 8,000 more people died than in a leap year. So, such fatalistic perception of a leap year is most likely nothing other than a simple superstition, for example, Friday the 13th.

Myth No. 3:

No weddings or divorces

The Church customarily bans certain dates for two love birds to tie the knot. According to Orthodox canons, people cannot take the oath of holy matrimony on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and before major holidays during Lent. Getting married on all the other days of the week is permitted. If a leap year was not “out of the ordinary”, this most likely would be reflected in church law.

And even statistics show that a leap year does not have an effect on the number of people that take the oath of wedlock. In Ukraine today a trend of a decline in the number of people willing to get married can be observed, regardless of the number of days in a year. According to data of the State Statistics Committee, in the last leap year (2008) approximately 320,000 couples tied the knot. In the following year this figure fell by 3,000 and a year later only 306,000 couples got married.

Popular beliefs advise again getting divorced in a leap year as one may never find happiness again. Of course, a divorce is generally the final cut, but only superstition can allay the fear of ephemeral and eternal solitude.

Noteworthy is that with every year less and less Ukrainians are getting divorced. While 166,000 couples got divorced in 2008, in 2010 this figure dropped to 126,000. So, the decrease in the number of those wanting to get married or divorced is merely a reflection of the overall trend in Ukraine and not due to one extra day in the year.

Myth No. 4:

Don’t sell your property

It is believed that one should not begin the construction of a new home or buy property in a leap year. Superstitions confirm that major problems will arise when building a home in a leap year and a newly bought apartment will result to complete unhappiness. But again, finding a logical explanation for such omens is totally unrealistic. Realtors say they have not observed a notable downward trend on the real estate market in a leap year.

Myth No. 5:

Wrath of Mother Nature

Yet another superstition connected with a leap year is an increase in the number of natural disasters. It is believed that in a leap year Mother Nature shows unusually turbulent behavior. As practice shows, such fears are not substantiated by anything but superstition. It is more likely that such a superstition developed due to events that occurred in a leap year that were given great attention exclusively due its ludicrous reputation.

For example, last year (2011 – which not a leap year) Japan was hit by a tsunami followed by a devastating earthquake. Australia and Brazil suffered from serious flooding, the western regions of Ukraine are also inundated by floods and the eastern part of the country turns into desert every summer. So, it appears that a leap year has absolutely no impact on natural disasters.

Myth No. 6:

Give particular care the elderly and children

There is a superstition that this year the appearance of the first tooth of a newborn should not be celebrated. If so, the rest of its teeth will not grow properly and the child will suffer for the rest of its life. It is impossible to prove how true this superstition is, however not many try to test it on their own child.

In general, in folklore it is believed that a woman should not even think about having a child in a leap year. In other words, if a couple is planning to have a child, it is better off to postpone such plans for a regular year. If everything happens spontaneously, by no means should a couple even think about an abortion.

Fortunately, many couples take such superstitions with a grain of salt. Otherwise every fourth year people will be in for sharp demographic crisis. Psychologists affirm that children born a leap year are no worse off than other children and in the majority of cases are even more successful seeing as a unique individual trait is implanted in their sub-consciousness.

People even came up with “leap year superstitions” for the elderly. Specifically, they should not celebrate their birthdays in the leap year and not buy decorations for funerals in order to not evoke disaster. Psychologists say if the mortality rate grows in a leap year it is precisely due to similar prejudice. The fact is that the older a person is, the more they suffer from hypochondria and their body becomes more reactive to diseases that can lead to death. Moreover, stupidly glorifying a leap year could make the elderly become more nervous and expect the worst. So, the best one can do for parents or grandparents is give them lots of attention and tender loving care to safeguard them from evil thoughts.

Myth No. 7:

Conjure up the garden

Generally speaking, all agrarian nations show deep respect for their land. And this should come as no surprise as the earth does not appreciate negligence and carelessness. After all, if you don’t properly till the soil you will not reap the harvest. However, superstitions prove that in a leap year the land is particularly unpredictable which is why when sowing seeds in the spring farmers must utter the words: “I am sowing in a leap year – so I’ll live a little more.”

The incantations are not likely to help if the summer is dry or too rainy. Albeit, a sincerely read prayer does no harm regardless of how many days there are in a year. Naturally, whether one believes or does not believe in superstitions, it is a totally personal matter. Nonetheless, psychologists say the essence of an omen is that only becomes true when a person truly believes in it.

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