To be born in February is sometimes classified as a noble distinction since many famous Americans were born in this month. To be born on February 29, the odds get even greater. The United States has about 200,000 people who were born on Feb. 29. Considering the population of the United States, as of July 2007 approximately 301,139,947, that's about 1 in 1500. By the way, Do you know any leaplings?
February the Month
February is the Roman month of purification. It gets its name from the Latin word Februarius through the word februare, meaning to expiate or purify. At the Festival of Februa, celebrated on February 15, people repented of their wrongdoings and offered sacrifices to their gods. At first, February was not in the calendar which had only ten months. Around 700 B.C., Numa Pompilius changed the year of 304 days to a lunar one of 355 days. He then added two months; January, at the beginning of the new year and February at the end. Numa gave this month 29 days with thirty in Leap Year. Around 452 B.C., the Decemvirs inserted February between January and March. Another change was made when Augustus Caesar renamed August after himself and "borrowed" a day from February, leaving it with 28 days. It is said that Augustus did this because he wanted his month to have as many days as July which was named after Julius Caesar.
In earlier times though the decorations would have been left up until 'Candlemas', 2 February. This festival was established in the 5th-century date was traditionally seen by the church as a day of celebrations for the 'Purification of the Virgin Mary'. Women who had become mothers or borne children during the previous year were honoured on this day and went to a special service at the church, carrying candles on this day. This Christian festival replaced the Roman festival of 'Februa' for which women processed through the streets on this day, again carrying lighted candles, symbolising the purification of all. The day was spent by women completing religious rites connected with purifying the body and mind. source
The calendar year is 365 days long, unless the year is exactly divisible by 4, in which case an extra day is added to February to make the year 366 days long. If the year is the last year of a century, eg. 1800, 1900, 2000, then it is only a leap year if it is exactly divisible by 400. Therefore, 1900 wasn't a leap year but 2000 was. The reason for these rules is to bring the average length of the calendar year into line with the length of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, so that the seasons always occur during the same months each year. source
Leap Year the Day
I first explored the relationship between February 29 and Sadie Hawkins Day back in November @ Months of Edible Celebrations. Sadie Hawkins was a female character in the Al Capp cartoon strip Li'l Abner. Although both days share the tradition of women proposing marriage to men, their beginnings are quite different. The Leap Year tradition of women asking for a man's hand in matrimony is said to have started in the 5th century with St. Bridget. Bridget of Ireland is the protector of pregnant women, midwives and one of the three patron saints of Ireland. She is the Patroness of Dairy, Cattle & Poultry Workers. According to history books Saint Bridget beckoned St. Patrick complaining that the nuns were upset because they never had a chance to propose to the man they wanted to marry. (during the time of St. Bridget, nuns were able to marry) She petitioned St. Patrick for all women to be able to propose to a man. St. Patrick granted women the 29th day of February, to propose to their men. The story is also told that St. Bridget proposed to St. Patrick and he turned her down. Instead he promised to give her a silk gown and a kiss. Now, according to English law of the time, February 29th had no legal status but, there was an unwritten law that stated if a man turned down a woman's proposal during Leap Year he had to compensate her with a kiss plus either a silk gown or a pair of gloves as St. Patrick had promised.
Some say that this custom originated in fifth-century Ireland, where St. Patrick allowed women to take the initiative every four years after St. Brigid complained to him that they were having to wait too long for husbands. Others credit a Scottish law enacted in 1288 under the unmarried Queen Margaret, which allowed a maiden “liberty to bespeak ye man she likes” during leap year. The knave who refused to marry her and could not prove his engagement to another was assessed a fine. excellent source
Sadie Hawkins Day
In the United States, some people refer to February 29th as Sadie Hawkin's Day. Based on the Al Capp comic strip, Sadie Hawkins was a female comic character who was not the most attractive girl in the city of Dog Patch where her father was mayor. Sadie's father was afraid he would never marry her off. In desperation, he decreed a Sadie Hawkins Day. All unmarried men in Dogpatch would get a ten minute head start before Sadie and the other unmarried women began running after them. The man each woman caught would end up in front of Marryin' Sam for a shotgun wedding. When Al Capp created the Sadie Hawkins event, it was not his intention to have the event occur annually on a specific date. Like many, I chose to celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day in November @ Months of Edible Celebrations but, I did find a out that the 6th annual Leap Year Festivalis being held at the Leap Year Capital of the World February 28- March 2, 2008.
Leap Day Recipes
Seems to me a good stash of recipes set aside just for Leap Year is a wise decision. Why not call them Bissextile recipes. Bissextile day, is better known as February 29.) You have to admit, it does sound rather becoming. Now remember, the entire year is a Leap Year. 366 days of recipes may seem like too many to begin with so why don't we start with the classic cocktail invented at London's Savoy Hotel on February 29, 1928. It is said the Leap Year Cocktail was "responsible for more proposals than any other cocktail that has ever been mixed." Wow! that's 120 years ago. There was a time when you could attend a Leap Year Ball throughout the whole Leap Year. Leap Year Dances were common as well. Ladies, if you have intentions of proposing marriage any time this year, comprising a delightful meal can't hurt. Oh, it isn't about proving what a "good housewife" you would make. A once in four year dining experience deserves the very best. I prefer to rely on the taste of The Barber of Seville, operatic composer, Gioacchino Rossini. William Tell and Cinderella, also his operas, are wonderful resources for a theme party. If I had my Dinah Shore cookbooks here in New York, I would refer to it because Dinah Shore (1916) like Rossini (1792) was born on February 29. Coming up with a theme party shouldn't be too difficult. One could base it on one of Gilbert and Sullivan's most famous operas The Pirates of Penzance. Frederic's birthday was on Leap Day.
For my contribution I would like to reveal a recipe I found in the book by Jean Conil titled For Epicures Only. (1952) I was so elated to find this recipe in the book and even more excited when I couldn't find it anywhere on the internet. I'm sure it's out there somewhere but I couldn't find it. Here is what the author had to say about the dish.
The following recipe Chausson a la Rossini, was created in 1860 in honor of Rossini, the Italian composer, who was fond of foie gras and truffles. Many garnishes and dishes characterized by goose liver and truffles, have been called by his name.
|Prepare some puff pastry, roll it out and cut it with a large plain cutter. In one half of each circle place a thin slice of cooked ham, a tiny slice of foie gras truffle, a tablespoon of duxelle (chopped mushrooms, shallots, and fresh herbs) and a tablespoon of Madere (Madeira ) sauce in cold jelly form. Fold over the other half of your pastry, wet the edge and you will have your turnover. Brush it with an eggwash before baking it. A sauce pot of Madere sauce should be served with it. Note: This nice little entree can be served cold and is ideal with a salad, or served hot with spinach leaves.|