Rev Pat Willson's February Reflection

When I was asked to write something for this February magazine, my first thoughts were “what usually happens in February”? 

We have the romantic association of Valentine’s Day, the food of Pancake Day, followed by Ash Wednesday, and Lent, the beginning of a time of discipline and preparation looking forward to Easter - all notable days in February. Which should I choose? 

Then it occurred to me that something extra special is happening this month - we will have an extra day a ‘leap day’, something that occurs only every four years. 

Do we know how did leap days come about? I thought I’d find out - and it’s quite complicated so bear with me. The calendar we once used in Britain was the Julian Calendar. It was based on the solar year, that is the time it takes for the Earth to rotate around the Sun, 

However this calendar had an inbuilt error of 1 day every 128 years, due to a miscalculation of the solar year by 11 minutes. Not enough to matter, you may think, but this affected the date of Easter, traditionally observed on March 21, as it began to move further away from the spring equinox with each passing year. Before the calendar was changed, England celebrated Christmas on the equivalent of the 6th of January by our modern, Gregorian reckoning. 

So in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian Calendar. This calendar, which we still use today, has a more precise formula for the calculation of leap day. 

First to adopt the new calendar in 1582 were France, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain. Turkey was the last country to officially switch to the new system as recently as January 1st, 1927.

For Britain, it was in 1752 that the Government decided to abandon the Julian calendar in favour of the more accurate Gregorian calendar, the calendar which we still use today. At the time of the change, to make the necessary adjustment, the 3rd of September instantly became 14th of September - and as a result, nothing whatsoever happened in British history between 3rd and 13th September 1752.

Many people thought that the government had stolen eleven days of their lives. Legend says that they protested in the streets, demanding "Give us back our 11 days!"

So, adding an extra day every four years keeps our calendar aligned correctly with the astronomical seasons, since a year according to the Gregorian calendar (365 days) and a year according to Earth’s orbit around the Sun (approximately 365.25 days) are not the exact same length of time, the extra day is added every four years. Without this extra day, our calendar and the seasons would gradually get out of sync.” 

I hope that all makes sense!! 

I remember a long time ago, Leap Day was known as “Ladies Day” ,as it was the one day when women were free to propose to men. That is now long gone as I’m sure a woman can propose to a man whenever she likes. 

So, if we are not single, and we don’t have a man to propose to, what will we do on this extra day, February 29th? It falls on a Saturday. Lent, a time of reflection, prayer and, yes, giving to others, will have begun just a few days earlier. Perhaps we could plan ahead to spend our extra day in an extra special way. 

We have recently been remembering those wise men who followed that star with such dedication, to find Jesus. They wanted to worship Jesus and pay homage, the gifts they brought tokens of their adoration. Could we, perhaps, try to show that same dedication. As we have followed the Light of the World, Jesus into 2020, could we, perhaps, try to plan to do something special for someone else on that extra day. Take some of that ‘extra’ time to give it to someone else. Perhaps a visit, perhaps a phone call. Just to come alongside someone else with love, care and understanding. 

No need to take a piece of gold, but a bunch of flowers would be a thoughtful token. 

Wishing a happy “Leap Day” to one and all. 


Revd. Pat


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