Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 29, 2012 - It's A Leap Year!

I didn't want to miss this opportunity on the last day of a snow less February to mention a few folk lore "facts" on leap years.  After all we won't have another one until four years from now.

There was a lot mentioned about leap years on the inter-net today and I thought it would be fun to incorporate a few of them on the last blog for this month.  They are funny, and we need some laughter, because if the" weather lore" from my last blog is right, we are not going to have a great summer. Maybe we'll have two dismal winters.  Let's hope not!

With 2012 comes the gift of an extra day.  24 hours for our calendar to catch up with the sun - and for us to catch up on a zillion things which we will need a zillion years.  While February 29 may feel like your average day, its once, every- four- years status has long linked it to myth and lore.  Here are some for example:

Astronomy Lesson

Despite what our elementary teachers told us, a year isn't really 365days.  Our planet actually takes 365 1/4 days to revolve around the sun.  These six additional hours each year add up to an extra 24 hours over four years, at which point we add a day to our calendar in order to keep us in sync with the sun.  Without leap day, annual events would slowly shift seasons - eventually Christmas would be celebrated in July.  It might as well be because we know Jesus wasn't born in December anyway.

One Glitch

While the first leap day was likely observed by the Egyptians, Caesar is credited for incorporating a leap year into the Julian calendar in 46 B.C.  However scientists noticed that annual events were still shifting over extended periods of time.  while the calculation of 365 1/4 days for the earth to lap the sun was close, the true figure is actually about 11 minutes short of that and this tiny miscalculation caused a day of discrepancy every 128 years.  Pope Gregory XIII came to the rescue in 1582, ruling that leap year would be skipped every four centuries to fix the snag.

Farmers' Fears

Though the point of a leap day is to keep our calendar aligned with nature, hundreds of years ago people thought that messing with our months would throw Mother Nature for a loop.  Farmers worried that the change would lower crop yields and sicken livestock.  In fact, a Scottish saying declared that "leap year was never a good sheep year."  Lore also held that leap day babies were unruly and tough to raise. (Maybe we should ask J. Lo, whose twins were born on Feb. 29, 2008 - if this adage proves true.)

Chances of Being Born

Rapper Ja Rule and actor Antonio Sabato Jr. are among the roughly 187,000 lea pings in the U.S. and 4 million worldwide.  Long - expired leap lings include poet John Byrom, bandleader Jimmy Dorsey and writer Dee Brown.  The likelihood of being born on February 29 is roughly 1 in 1,500, and on leap day 2012, (today) approximately 10,000 American babies will enter this exclusive minority.

A Modest Proposal

As the picture in the blog reveals leap year allowed women to propose marriage to men.( that unsuspecting man in the picture is in big trouble.)  Four hundred years ago women were not allowed to propose marriage to men - except on leap day.  While the source of this switcheroo isn't 100 percent clear, folklore traces the tradition to fifth - century Ireland, when St. Bridget supposedly complained to St. Patrick that gals were sick of waiting around for their procrastinating men to pop the question.  Patrick consented to a leap day role reversal and by some accounts, also declared that men who declined the proposal would be fined! ( If I were those men I'd run and hide.)

This was just  a few interesting 'facts' that were brought out on the inter-net.  Times have changed drastically.  Today woman don't wait for leap year to take the lead, any day will do just fine. 

Well, what will you do with your extra day in February? Or should I say 'what did you do' as this day is almost over.  I'm happy to say, I was able to complete this blog. And above all else, let us thank Jehovah and praise him, the giver of life and time.

This is Raven - as the crow flies!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Winter Snow - Where Are You?

Here we are in the month of February, the middle of winter, and unlike this picture there is no snow on the ground.

One of the main reasons Raven loves winter is because of the snow, and for all of those who love snow it hasn't been a great winter.  For those who are happy there is no snow, it's been a great winter.  Jehovah is so good, he pleases everyone.

It's true, we did have a snow storm in October, but it's not the same. It was in the beginning of the fall season.  Totally unexpected.  We did have some snow fall not long ago this winter season, but honestly the next day it was in the mid-50's and it quickly melted away.  We have had some cold raw windy days reminiscent of a real winter. Without the snow it's actually colder, or at least feels that way.

I have a theory for some years now, that if the beginning of the fall season starts out unseasonably cold, it seems we will have a warmer winter with little or no snow.  So far, it appears to be the case unfortunately so.

There still may be hope though.  February 2nd, Ground Hog Day, the ground hog saw his shadow, which means there will be 6 more weeks of winter.  Of course he saw his shadow because the sun was out.  If it was cloudy that day he would not have seen his shadow.
I was curious about how Ground Hog Day got started.  Here is what I found.

Groundhog Day is celebrated every year on February 2nd. The official groundhog lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. His name is Punxsutawney Phil. According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow (the day is bright and sunny), there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow (the day is overcast), there will be an early spring.

The celebration of Groundhog Day began with Pennsylvania's earliest settlers. It stemmed from a combination of religious beliefs and facts associated with hibernating animals. They brought with them the legend of Candlemas Day.

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

So Ground Hog Day is also called Candlemas Day.  What is that?  

February 2nd is Candlemas Day( The Christian Festival of Lights)  The Ancient Festival marks the midpoint of winter halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.  In olden times many people use to say that the Christmas season lasted for 40 days - until the second day of February.

It was the day of the year when all the candles that were to be used in the church during the coming year, were brought into the church and a blessing was said over them - so it was the Festival Day (or 'mass') of the candles.

Candles were important in those days not only because there was no electric lights, but people thought they gave protection against plague and illness and famine.  For nominal Christians it was a reminder of Jesus coming to earth.  Before he came everyone was 'in the dark' so to speak.  Jesus coming to earth with his message was like a guiding light to them in the darkness.  Jesus is called the light of the world - and candles are lit during church services to remind them of this.
With all this said, what hope is there for us to get a good snowstorm?  Maybe if we all do a snow dance that might work.  Perhaps we may get a clue from some weather lore and traditions.

Here are a few.

If Candlemas be fair and clear,  there'll be two winters in the year.

It is said that if the weather is fine and frosty at the close of January and the beginning of February,
There is more winter ahead than behind.

When the cat lies in the sun in February
She will creep behind the stove in March.

Of all the months of the year
Curse a fair February.

If it thunders in February,
It will frost in April.

If February give much snow,
A fine summer it doth fore show.

I keep checking the weather report, and I see no snow in the near future for us, so in the meantime we can dream about it and see it in pictures.

This is Raven - as the crow flies