Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Leap into Leap Day

Today, Feb 29, is an unusual day, a day which happens only once in every four years thus it is called a Leap day and 2012 is a Leap year. (Does it mean that if your birthday falls on this date, you will only grow a year older every four years?)

Why do we need a Leap day?

I'll let Wikipedia explain..
Although most years of the modern calendar have 365 days, a complete revolution around the sun takes approximately 365 days and 6 hours. Every four years, during which an extra 24 hours have accumulated, one extra day is added to keep the count coordinated with the sun's apparent position.

The Chinese lunar calendar also incorporates leaping (if there is such a word to describe it), not leap days but leap months. Certain years, there are thirteen months in a lunar year and it is not restricted to any particular month.

How is the leap month determined?

Leap years have 13 months. To determine if a year is a leap year, calculate the number of new moons between the 11th month in one year (i.e., the month containing the Winter Solstice) and the 11th month in the following year. If there are 13 new moons from the start of the 11th month in the first year to the start of the 11th month in the second year, a leap month must be inserted.

Notice the calendar in the image above? This is the type of calendar traditional Chinese families would have at home which I have at work as well because it also incorporates the lunar calendar whose days of the month we refer to for events and festivals. It comes in handy for those who go vegetarian on the first and fifteenth day of the lunar month. This fast is usually done for religious reasons. Chinese festivals are based on this lunar calendar, but of course, including

- Chinese New Year (1st lunar month)
- Chap Goh Meh (15th day of the 1st lunar month - also last day of Chinese New Year)
- Tomb-sweeping day (3rd month)
- Dumpling day festival (5th month)
- Hungry Ghost month festival (7th month)
- Mooncake/Lantern festival (8th month)
- Nine Emperor God festival (9th month)
- Winter solstice festival (11th month)

So, happy Leap day, Everyone!
Do something nice today, something memorable or something bad which it won't come back to haunt you until four years later! LOL!


  1. yeah, everyone's talking about the leap day.. but i am more interested to know how the chinese calendar decide on which month to leap..

  2. SK, a source is in the post in case you missed it. For more info, Google may be able to help.

  3. Hungry ghost month? I Googled that, and realized it's similar to Japan's Obon. (The latter is undoubtedly based on the former.) I love that name: hungry ghost month! ^^

    I didn't know about the custom of being vegetarian on certain days of the lunar month. More Googling to be done, clearly.

    PS: The lunar calendar fascinates me. So much quirkier and more HUMAN than the very scientific Western one. Don't you think?

  4. Mine once in 4-year day today went by quietly. xD

  5. I like Chinese calendars! Must have them with me : )

  6. haven't seen that type of calender for years!

  7. Perhaps the chinese calendar is more accurate :o)

  8. Bananaz must have the same as yours but replaced the top header with last year's by stapling on hehe. Hope I can do this in less than two times as not to be appeared robotic haha.

  9. Still need two times, the two words are challenging.

  10. Rurousha, I think the Obon is more akin to our tomb-sweeping festival in the third month in which some of us travel miles (interstate too) to clean the tombs of deceased relatives (immediate family) and make offerings.

    The Hungry Ghost month is dedicated to homeless/stray ghosts that are everywhere around us plus those that are released from "the land of the dead" to roam the Earth freely for this one month. Food, monetary and other offerings are made to thank the spirits for past year's support/blessings and to request the same for the year ahead. Musical stage shows and Chinese opera shows are also held for the entertainment of the spirits in which the front-row seats are often left unoccupied by the living - meant for the spirits.

    As to the custom of going vegetarian, some people go on a full day without meat, others until 7pm. On these two days, bigger joss-sticks are burned and candles are lit. Other days, small/regular joss-sticks are used and no need for candles. This is normally what's practised in a traditional Taoist/Buddhist home.

    I know my family would be at a loss without the lunar calendar. I know my mom would be.

    'Much quirkier and more HUMAN' - I like. LOL

  11. Lina, quiet is good too. It's like sailing on a calm sea. No?

  12. Foong, what Chinese home would not have one, eh? Afterall our festivals are based on the lunar calendar. I'd be like a blind bat without one. Sorry, bat.

  13. Nath, oh dear, I spoke too soon in my reply to Foong?

    Don't you have a lunar calendar at home? Oh nooooo!

  14. Ai Shiang, you think? All I know is that I can't live without one. LOL!

  15. Oops, Bananaz, you lost me there, I'm afraid. I'm sorry, slow today..