JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: Are you a leaper?

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The odds of being born on February 29 are 1,500 to 1. When Karin Henriksen of Norway gave birth to three children on consecutive Leap Days — a daughter in 1960 and two sons in 1964 and 1968, that was pretty amazing. Her children became “leapers” — people who are born on February 29. Do you know anyone born on Leap Day? Is it unlucky or lucky to be born on February 29?

Romance and asking a man or woman to marry have a connection to Leap Year. I found this Leap Year postcard in my collection, which reads:

“This is Leap Year; then don’t dare to tell a girl she’s fine or fair. Choose well the words that you shall say or she may answer, ‘Name the day!’”

In fifth century, Ireland women were not allowed to propose to men. Legend has it that St. Patrick designated February 29 as the only day that women could propose. In England if a man refused the proposal, he owed the woman a few pairs of gloves probably to hide the fact that she did not have a wedding ring. It is bad luck to marry on February 29 in Greece and this superstition is still followed today. Don’t let that stop you if you choose to get married on February 29. You only have to remember your spouse’s anniversary every four years.

There aren’t too many memorable events that occurred on February 29. Remember Buddy Holly and his black rimmed glasses? The rock star’s glasses disappeared for more than two decades after he died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, in 1959. They remained buried in the snow until the spring thaw. They were found and given to the county sheriff’s office who filed them away in an envelope. It wasn’t until February 29, 1980, that they were rediscovered and given to Holly’s widow, Maria Elena.


The Leap Year in 1972 proved to be a lucky year for Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. He was given a $200,000-a-year contract, and was, at the time, the highest paid player in the league. That was a lot of cash in the day. Maybe being awarded the contract on February 29 had something to do with it. If you are thinking about asking for a raise on or around February 29, go for it.

Leap Year was pretty lucky for Hattie McDaniel . She became the first African-American to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy in Gone With The Wind — February 29, 1940. It wasn’t until 20 years later that another African-American won an Oscar and that was Sidney Poitier for starring in Lilies of the Field.

In case you are wondering why we have Leap Year here is a simple explanation. Years that are multiple of four are leap years. In each leap year, the month of February has 29 days instead of 28. Adding one extra day in the calendar every four years compensates for the fact that a period of 365 days is shorter than a typical year by almost 6 hours.

If you really want to get into the Leap Year spirit, you need to head south. Anthony, Texas, and Anthony, N.M., (sister cities) both claim the title of “Leap Year Capital of the World." To celebrate the Leap Year, a large celebration is held and offers a tour through an Aztec cave. Put this on your bucket list. You wouldn’t have to empty it for four years, or eight years or 12 years.

How can you celebrate Leap Year? Here are some ideas.

  1. Do something you haven’t done for at least four years. What haven’t you done for a long time. Do it on the 29th.
  2. Help someone or do something special for someone.
  3. Write a letter to yourself to be opened four years later on the next Leap Day. Make sure you remember where you put it.
  4. Make a Leap Year time capsule. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Put it away and open it up four years from now.
  5. It is believed that people born on Leap Day have unusual talent. I believe everyone has unusual talent. Ask someone what yours is?
  6. If you are working on a fixed annual income, on Leap Day you are working for free. Suggest to your boss that he/she buys you an ice cream Saturday (i.e., Feb. 29 falls on a Saturday.)

Don’t forget, “This is Leap Year; then don’t dare to tell a girl she’s fine or fair. Choose well the words that you shall say or she may answer, ‘Name the day!’” If you are lucky, she will name the day. Happy Leap Year.
Riddle: How many months of the year have 28 days? (Answer: Some people might say "one." The correct answer is they all have 28 days.) In a Leap Year we get one extra day to enlarge our brain by learning something new.


Mark your calendar. On April 16 at the Red Lake Seven Clans Casino we will have a conference titled: Helping Kids Find Success. It will be sponsored by the Red Lake Boys and Girls Club and Project Graduate or 100%. The Minnesota 2017 Teacher of the Year will be speaking plus an array of other speakers. It is intended for business and community leaders, child advocates, educators and parents. Call John at (218) 766-9009 for more information. We have also asked Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan to speak. Her participation thus far is pending.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.

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