After Leap Day

leap year

Happy belated Leap Day, everybody! Although it will already be over by the time you read this, I hope you all had a splendid February 29. As I’m sure you all know, Leap Day is…wait, do you all know? Sometimes I forget that this is a rather obscure holiday. Well, have no fear, because Uncle Chris is here to drop some knowledge on y’all. Leap Day comes every four years, and falls on February 29. As anybody with a basic knowledge of the calendar knows, February only has 28 days in a year, except for in a leap year, where it has (say it with me now) 29. So technically, if you were born on Leap Day in 2004, you’d only be 2 right now, as opposed to 8. Pretty simple, right? Yay! Let’s move on.

Obviously, Leap Day isn’t a traditional holiday. In fact, to call it a holiday at all is, admittedly, a bit of a stretch. That being said, pop culture has been trying to make it one for a while now. In last week’s hilarious 30 Rock, entitled “Leap Day,” Liz Lemon was surprised to find out that the rest of the TGS staff was familiar with this obscure holiday, where everyone wears blue and gold, and the magical Leap Day Williams (played brilliantly on the show by Jim Carrey, who appears in a movie within the episode) rises out of the ocean. Lets also make sure that we don’t forget 2010’s cinematic milestone, Leap Year, in which Amy Adams plays a girl who decides to go to Ireland to propose to her husband on Leap Day, because according to Irish tradition, if you propose to a man on February 29, he has to accept, or some bullshit like that. One of my favorite episodes of Frasier (that’s right America, I will never let you forget about Frasier) from 1996 entitled “Look Before You Leap” also revolves around Frasier Crane telling those in his life to “take a leap” in honor of February 29.

And now we come to what seems to really be the central theme of Leap Day: taking chances. In “Look Before You Leap,” Frasier encourages his family and friends to take chances, most of which have disastrous results. In “Leap Day,” Liz Lemon is told by everyone around her to do things she normally wouldn’t, because technically, Leap Day “doesn’t even count.” In Leap Year, well, I can’t really tell you how this fits into Leap Year, because I haven’t actually seen it, but I’m sure it has the same general theme. The point is, according to what TV and movies have told us, Leap Day is a time for us to try things that we normally wouldn’t otherwise.

And this is where I take some umbrage. Never mind that corporate America seems to have hopped on Leap Day and attempted to monetize it like everything else. Indeed, yesterday offered major deals from companies including Disney, Chick-fil-A, and Verizon (man, talk about a triangle of evil). The fact of the matter is that it’s not really worth bitching about the corporatization of holidays since, let’s face it, everything in America is a corporatized affair. I get it, Valentine’s Day was invented to sell cards. So what? Hallmark’s just trying to get paid, and they saw an opportunity to do it. Do they capitalize on people’s emotions in the process? Sure, but to be fair, American companies try to manipulate us emotionally all year round, and they just do it even more so on holidays.

This leads me back to my point. People tend to act sometimes like holidays are different because they’re the one day out of the year (or in this case, out of every four years) where we have to behave a certain way. Christmas is the one day we have to act kind to our fellow man. Valentine’s is the one day where we have to show our significant others how much we love them. Halloween is the one day where we have to dress up and get candy. (Okay, that one is true.) As corny as it sounds, there is a sense in which we should try to “keep the spirit of Christmas alive” in our hearts all year round. Saying that Christmas is the one day where we’re obligated to show compassion to our fellow man is like saying that the other 364 (or 365) days of the year we can go around punching homeless people in the face. Saying that we have to get drunk on Halloween or St. Patrick’s day makes it sound like Americans don’t spend the rest of the year getting drunk anyway. So please, please, for the love of God, buy your girlfriend all the chocolates and roses and whatever else she wants on Valentine’s Day, but know that that doesn’t give you the right to say, “Bitch, make me a sandwich!” the rest of the year.

People should always be taking chances. We shouldn’t just reserve one day every four years to do so, and we shouldn’t undervalue how hard it is to take said chances by saying that what we do on February 29 doesn’t count. Not to get all new age spirituality on your asses, but everything we do counts. We should always look before we leap, and be prepared for the consequences our actions have. But those consequences, should we choose to accept them, shouldn’t stop us from trying new things. So I hope you took February 29 to ask out that girl who’s been stuck in your head. I hope you took February 29 to tell your boss you think you’re ready for that promotion. I hope you took February 29 to try Indian food, despite how much it scares you. But if you didn’t do any of those things on February 29, I hope you do them today.