7 Leap-Year Anniversaries We Should Go Out of Our Way to Celebrate
Even if it’s mostly a bit of math meant to smooth out the way we’ve decided to divide our lives, leap years are still a pretty fun concept — especially if you choose to ignore their actual use and instead treat them as some sort of spooky day from beyond the veil, given to us once every four years as a gift. Honestly, the fact that they’re mostly normal feels like a real wasted opportunity. So why not go into history, pick something that happened to happen on February 29th in the past, and give it a little more glow? Or solemnly observe it, depending on the overall vibe.
Here are seven Leap Day happenings of the past…
Hank Aaron Signs A Historic Contract
Aaron is one of the most momentous figures in baseball. Jackie Robinson might have broken the sport’s color barrier, and he was a tremendous player in his own right, but he’s not usually in the conversation that Aaron can lay claim to: the best baseball player of all time. Aaron’s crowning achievement was toppling Babe Ruth’s home run record, and doing it while being abused and threatened in between — and during — every at-bat. On February 29, 1972, he was rewarded for that tenacity and talent with a record-breaking contract that paid him $200,000 a year.
Hattie McDaniel Is the First Black Actor to Win An Oscar
Speaking of momentous achievements in times that sure didn’t seem to want them to happen, on February 29, 1940, McDaniel won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She would be the first ever Black actor to win the award, although it was a bittersweet moment as the role she won for was the character of Mammy, the house slave in Gone With the Wind. Yeesh. You know what’s double yeesh? In the almost 85 years since, of the 332 Oscar winners for acting, 21 of them have been Black! That’s almost 7 percent! If you round up! Smh.
Family Circus Debuts
Doesn’t it feel eerily perfect that Family Circus, a newspaper cartoon known for being so unobjectionable as to be almost impenetrable, debuted on a Leap Day? As if it had come through a portal from some sort of strange, puritan alternate universe where the idea of someone named “Not Me” was their society’s greatest joke? If this is indeed the origin of Billy and Co., that wormhole they slipped through opened February 29, 1960.
The Salem Witch Trials Begin
Ah, one of history’s greatest oopsies: the Salem Witch Trials. As far as historical “our bads” go, executing swaths of women for somebody near them being weird is among the most grimly memorable. The three original “witches” in question were officially accused on February 29, 1692. The behavior that kicked off this whole thing? Samuel Parris’ two daughters, aged nine and eleven, were misbehaving, including throwing things, making weird sounds and writhing around on the ground. So, a tantrum. Gather the wood, fellas! This can’t be the worke of mere humans, but instead devilry most foule!
The Siege of Sarajevo Ends
Many Americans, myself included, are probably undereducated about the horrors of the Bosnian war. The public school system didn’t give me a whole lot of info on any war that didn’t start with “World,” and it’s not like it would have been in the textbooks we had, which had been printed back when America’s biggest enemy were hippies. It was a horrific war, and one of the worst facets was the horrific Siege of Sarajevo, which lasted almost four years and left almost 14,000 dead. After starting all the way back in April 1992, the siege finally ended on February 29, 1996.
Ja Rule Was Born
Well, there’s not really a lot of great ways to segue out of a massacre. It’s going to be a little awkward, and a little weird, and probably the first time the Siege of Sarajevo shares a piece of content with rapper Ja Rule, whose birthday is February 29, 1976! Listen to “Mesmerize,” maybe that’ll cheer you up after reading about wanton death!
Leap Year Itself
If you want the simplest, most straightforward option, why not honor the creation of the thing itself, tied to our modern calendar? The man responsible is already plenty prominent in history, given that it’s emperor and salad icon Julius Caesar. He, along with his number guy/astronomer Sosigenes, changed the Roman calendar, which was 355 days long and added an extra month every other year, into the one we know today. Leap Day — a tiny, forever reminder that nature will never be quite as neat as you’d like it to be.