“Today is an ephemeral ghost... A strange amazing day that comes only once every four years. For the rest of the time it does not exist.” – Vera Nazarian
The yellow violet, Viola odorata, is today’s birthday flower. It symbolises rarity, worth and rural happiness. Astrologically, the violet is under the dominion of Venus and the sign of Aries. In the Middle Ages, together with the wallflower, the violet was considered a symbol of constancy. A golden violet was the prize awarded to the best versifier in competitions where the troubadours sang their ballads.
The intercalary day of February 29th is added every four years except in those century years that cannot be divided evenly by 400 (e.g. 1700, 1800, 1900). In those years February has 28 days. In the Roman calendar the intercalary day was added after February 23rd (i.e. VII Kalends March) and the leap day was called VI Kalends of March, the same as the day that followed it. In a leap Roman year therefore there were two days that were called VI Kalends of March and the year was known as a bissextile year (i.e. sixth twice year).
The Leap Year’s Day was regarded as an unlucky day and many ill omens were associated with it. This arises from the belief that it was the birthday of Biblical Job, which he blighted when he cursed the day he was born. The Lord, in His mercy only allowed it to occur once every four years. No new tasks were begun on this day and often candles were lit in churches so that the blight of the day would not influence the fate of the faithful.
The field forget-me-not, Myosotis arvensis, is a flower that was traditionally exchanged between friends on this day. If one began to travel on February 29th, it was customary to give them this bloom. It symbolises remembrance and true love.
Traditionally, in some countries, February 29th was the time when “ladies have full and absolute licence to propose marriage to single gentlemen. If the gentleman be so rude as to refuse, he is infallibly bound to give the spurned lady a present, which is usually a pair of new gloves on Easter Day.” In 1228 a law was passed in Scotland allowing women to propose marriage only in a leap year.
Gioacchino Antonio Rossini (1792–1868) was born on this day and he is an Italian operatic composer. Of his many lively operas, The Barber of Seville (1816) is his comic masterpiece. After composing the opera William Tell (1829), he wrote only songs, piano pieces, and the Stabat Mater (1842). Some early works of his worth listening to are the String Sonatas 1-6 written at the age of twelve and anticipating the wit and lively nature of his mature music.
St Cassianus has his feast day today and he is considered by Greek heortology to be the patron saint of the lazy as his feast day falls only once every four years! He is often depicted holding keys, which the Greek people interpret as the “keys of laziness”.