Updated: Apr 20, 2020
By resident writer Adair MacGregor
You’ve called all your friends, dressed up to the eight point fives and put on your thinking cap (it’s corduroy). It’s trivia night and you will not be outdone. Sandra from HR isn’t even holding back her competitive glower while white-knuckling her HB pencil across the divide. The silence is deafening.
‘For the next question,’ the overly quirky MC chimes, ‘how many days of the year are there?’
The lights are suddenly made of lava, your palms are pools of sweat and everything that ever mattered only matters right now. Little Tommy, the rookie on your team, stares at you with big eyes like he may commit seppeku right there at the peanut-covered table because, good lord, he skipped the first grade and is devoid of all its golden knowledge.
You brandish your charcoal talisman in a flourish. You may have cheated your way through the SATs, but that only means you’re smarter than everyone else! ‘365,’ you sign in the inkiest of black.
Wait, wrong? Yes, my stylish trivia-crawling bumpkin, wrong.
Confused? Don’t worry, almost everyone who has ever tried to calendar has been.
The crux of the problem comes from a major discrepancy between days and how the sun juggles the earth. In reality, Earth completes a full rotation in 365.24219 days. In order to make up for the lack of complete mathematical synchronicity in the universe, Julius Caesar reformed his calendar days to (kind of) refit the bill. By adding an extra day to the year every four years (in this case, the fabled February 29th), he single-handedly plastered a (kind of) fix and created the leap year.
We call it the leap year not because everyone springs around like ballet-dancing leprechauns all year. I mean, do what you want. It’s because it makes what normally appears as a logical sequence of days jump forward. Let me explain. In 2013, for example, Christmas Day might fall on a Wednesday, the following year a Thursday, the year after that a Friday and in 2016 a Sunday. Why is that? Since 2015 was a leap year, it pushed the next year a day forward. Easy, right? Apparently, not really.
Before we get into why all of time and space is just utter nonsense, why should we even bother with leap years anyway? In the short term, it’s just a day, right? Was Julius Caesar just drunk on weakly fermented grape juice? Well, time unfortunately plods onwards – FAR onwards. If every four years we moved forward a day, every century the calendar would be out of whack by almost a month. In the far future, we would not understand why people would be decorating a fir tree come Christmas and not the beloved palm. Forget your skimpy costume, Carnival might be positively brisk. Who knows when strawberries would be in season? Utter chaos.
If your thinking cap is still snugly on, you might ask what happens to the 0.01219 leftover after desperately trying to cover up for the fact that nothing ever really jumps to the beat of our drum. Let’s round that out to 0.01 (we’re no mathematicians – even you, Sandra from HR - SO STOP PRETENDING THAT YOU’RE WORKING IT OUT ON THAT LITTLE NOTEPAD! WE HAVE YOUR NUMBER!). That comes out to an extra 11 minutes per year. So, after 128 years, this adds up to another whole day. Stop it already, you might be saying, but unfortunately time stops for no one. In order to circumvent time coming apart at its seams (I mean, too bad at this point, it’s inevitable), we skip leap year every centennial year – meaning we ignored leap year in 1700, 1800 and 1900.
So why in tarnation do you not recall having a leap year in 2000? Also, why are you still at the pub and not sitting on your bed holding your head between your legs and taking deep breaths because what is life at this point? In order to make up (again) for our complete misunderstanding of reality, we skip a leap year every 400 years. And I mean, even that’s not really a good patch.
Now before both you and sandy-haired Sandra both collapse into heaps of brain goo and nothingness, let’s all bring this right back to the present. Remember your beer, your friends and your meaningless job? Of course you do. It’s 2020 and there’s nothing like the present.
What does this this leap year mean for you? Apparently, everything good since almost everything falls around the weekend! Valentine’s Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are all on Friday! Your slutty Halloween and Fourth of July parties will fall on a Saturday! (You can be slutty for both, and you know it.) Cinco de Mayo even falls on Tequila (Taco) Tuesday so that you don’t have to break tradition.
And let’s not forget, leap years are also when we vote another fraudulent president into power! (And I’m not pointing fingers here. This could actually be every single one of our presidents.) *
It’s at this point that your boss/quiz champion teammate will turn to you and say, ‘Well gosh darn it, Steve. You don’t even need days off for holidays since they’re all weekend adjacent anyway! More work for everyone!’ And you’ll both laugh soullessly while throwing another back. I mean, time is coming apart anyway, why not spend it pushing papers towards meaningless goals in a meaningless universe where the only thing that lets you know you’re alive is the cold taste of irony. Cheers, kids! Happy prancing!
*Editor’s note: Adair is Canadian, so he’s super judgy in this regard.