Leap Year Vittles: Is There Such a Thing?

This year, February has 29 days. That means -- you got it -- Leap Year is here!

Leap year is a by-product of the Gregorian calendar in its efforts to synchronize with the solar calendar, i.e. the amount of time it takes for the earth to complete its orbit around the sun, which is 365.25 days. After all the mathematical whizbanging, this is why it's necessary to add an an extra day to the Gregorian calendar every four years, except of course during century years (but that's for another blog and algorithm).

I don't know anyone born on Feb. 29, but I've always wondered what it feels like to have an off-the-books birthday 75 percent of the time. I've read that the chances of being born on Leap Day is 1 in 1,500, but that's an unconfirmed statistic. If you've got good numbers (or are a member of the Leap club), please share your data in the comments area.

If I wasn't going to be out of town, I might have organized a Leap Year party, as the theme lends itself to all kinds of wacky entertaining ideas. First of all, you've got the once-in-four-years novelty, like the Olympics or a presidential election. Then there's the astronomical, star-gazing component (googles or astrology, anyone?). And my favorite, the otherwordly, bizarro quality of Feb. 29, the fact that it doesn't exist three out of every four years. It's an upside down, anything goes phenomenon -- and by the way, how many candles do we put on your cake if you were born on Feb. 29, 1968?

There's some cheese-y myth that frog's legs are de rigeur fare on Leap Day, but that sounds downright dreadful. No leapin' lizards, either, thank you very much.

Short of eating food that leaps, what about food that hops, bounces, sizzles -- or just talks back at you? (I was thinking of a bowl of Rice Krispies) Would a pot of Hoppin' John be appropriate for such a gala? What about freshly popped popcorn as a cocktail snack? Speaking of cocktails, what would be appropriate on a day with so many unconventional threads? A pitcher of Sex on the Beach? Jell-o shots blindfolded? It's all sounding like the makings of a Halloween bacchanal.

According to Leap Year legend, Feb. 29 was the one day of the year in the Middle Ages when the Catholic social mores of Ireland and Scotland were turned upside down and a woman was permitted to propose marriage. Oh, those crazy kids...

Back to the party planning. The first order of business would be an upside-down cake, hands down. And if one of the guests was a real Leaper, I might make a special four-layer cake in his honor. After all, how often do you have a chance to make a cake of skyscraper proportions?

The woman's carte blanche marriage proposal theme has me thinking -- should there be seductive vittles to rope in the betrothed? What about finger food the whole night -- no utensils allowed?

Whatever you decide, it seems that throwing out the rulebook is a good idea. Share your ideas for the zestiest Leap Day affair in all the land.

And where are you, Leapers? I wanna say Happy Birthday! (Hmm...that has me wondering: Do Leapers deserve four cakes in one night for their unfortunate timing?)

By Kim ODonnel |  February 28, 2008; 9:03 AM ET Entertaining
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I'm not a statistician, but the 1 in 1,500 sounds rougly correct. It would actually be one in 1,461 -- you could be born on any of the 365 days of a nonleap year (1,095 choices) or on any of the 366 days day in a leap year (1,095+366=1,461). While actual birth rates might be higher in some months than others, the actual odds are pretty straightforward, I'd think: either you are born on X day or you aren't. In any one-year period, you have a one in 365 chance of being born on X day. In any four-year period, you have a four in 365 chance of being born on X day and a 1 in 1,461 chance of being born on leap day.

Just my two cents.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 28, 2008 10:33 AM

Hello, I was born Feb. 29, 1960 and I had a good friend in high school, who also shared my birthday. What are the chances !! So, I am officially celebrating my 12th birthday...x 4, this year.

Posted by: Bobbie Clark | February 28, 2008 12:28 PM

I work for Marx Foods, a specialty food company, and we just had a lady order 30 lb. of Frog Legs (this Leap Year tradition is new to me as well). She's hosting a Leap Year Party and having a frog leg cooking contest ... I still haven't gotten the nerve to try them, but sounds like an excellent way to give them a go (or leap)!

Posted by: fiddleheadfern | February 28, 2008 12:59 PM

I nominate raccoon to be the official Leap Year fare. It would give one four years to develop an excuse for being busy that day for a total of eight years to come up with a second excuse. This only occurs to me because I have a raccoon in my freezer.

Posted by: Dave | March 4, 2008 12:00 AM

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