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Happy Birthday Leapers!

Febbraio 2008
Si chiamano leapers le persone nate in un anno bisestile (leap year in inglese), come il 2008. Tutte le tradizioni e le curiosità legate a un’affascinante “anomalia” del calendario.

di John Rigg

File audio:

A leap year proposal
A leap year proposal

Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)

Can you answer this question? Four years ago, an elderly couple happily announced: “After 40 years of marriage, we’re celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary.” How was that possible? Well, this year they are celebrating their eleventh anniversary. Still don’t understand? They got married on February 29th, which comes around only once every four years. It’s 2008: a leap year!


The couple, the O’Donnells, had a special reason for choosing that date: Mrs. O’Donnell took advantage of a tradition that permits women to propose to men in leap years. Her husband, Peter, agreed, on condition they married on February 29th. It was a sound decision: not only did he avoid paying the traditional penalty for refusal – a silk dress and a kiss – he also saved on three out of every four anniversary presents. Anyone can choose to get married on February 29th, but what if you are born on that day?
Well, your mother will tell you it’s a special day, so you are very special, but friends will laugh because your birthday comes round only once every four years. Doctors and nurses often suggest registering a leap day birth as February 28th or March 1st.


What are the real problems for leapers? Legally, a leaper’s birthday is midnight on February 28th, whether the next day is the 29th or March 1st. However, problems can occur when officials don’t believe February 29th is a real date and claim a leaper’s identity card is fake. Canadian Mark Brophy had this problem when a police computer system rejected the date on his driving licence. But it’s not all bad: when Michael Branam of Colorado was stopped for speeding, the policeman looked at his licence and laughed: “I’ve never given a five-year-old a ticket, and I’m not going to start today!”

If You Are a Leaper...

...why not join the Honour Society for Leap Year Babies and share your experiences at www.leapzine.com; or visit the town of Anthony, Texas, which organises the World Wide Leap Year Festival from February 27th to 29th. Celebrate with thousands of leapers at the festival’s parades, enjoy hot-air balloon rides and an enormous birthday cake. www.leapyearcapital.com

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elderly couple - anziana coppia.

comes around - arriva.

leap year - anno bisestile.

to propose - chiedere la mano di.

a sound decision - una decisione saggia.

a silk dress - un vestito di seta.

saved on three out of four... presents - si risparmiò 3 regali di anniversario su 4.

nurses - infermiere.

a leap day birth - una nascita del 29 febbraio.

occur - insorgere.

claim - sostengono.

fake - falsa.

was stopped for speeding - fu fermato per eccesso di velocità.

ticket - multa.