THE SONIC BOOMER
Saturday, Feb. 29 is Leap Day — an extra day that Julius Caesar wedged into the calendar every four years to help things work out with the sun, moon and planets. Yes, up until 45 BC, there was no leap year, and the natural order of things was causing plenty of grief among human beings, who like to impose their own “order” onto things.
I would like to pause here to cite the metric system as another one of these failed orders, except it is working pretty darn well for 19/20ths of the world’s population — everyone except the West African republic of Liberia, Southeast Asia’s Myanmar and the United States of America. Realizing that the metric system is easier to use and just makes sense, countries that were not originally using it began to convert to the metric system in the 1790s. No, that is not a typo. They saw the light 230 years ago. But not us. With us, it’s “my way or the highway” — a highway which, by the way, is measured in kilometers, just about everywhere but here.
Yet, I digress. Knowing what I do about Julius Caesar and how he liked his name on everything from salad to the month of July, I wondered how leap year escaped a similar fate. But then I discovered that leap year had originally been called “Year of the Consulship of Caesar without Colleague.” The “without colleague” part, I assume, was his way of saying, “I share this patent with no one.” It was probably the court jester who came up with “leap year.” Thank goodness.
At any rate, Saturday is truly an “extra” day, and it should not be squandered. In my estimation, no one should go to work, everything should close, and we should all roll around on the grass in a celebration reminiscent of Saturnalia. Don’t bother Googling it — I already did.
According to ancient tradition, Saturnalia started out as a single day and, due to popular demand, was soon expanded to a week. It began with a public banquet followed by the private exchange of gag gifts, then continual partying in a carnival atmosphere, and participation in all forms of gambling (temporarily legalized for the occasion). In Rome, masters would provide table service for their slaves and a “King of Saturnalia” would be elected to preside over the merry-making. There was also a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, but I’m sure it was nothing dreadful, given the tone of the day.
The Latin poet Catullus called it “the best of days.”
To modernize Saturnalia and make it fit into one day, I suggest keeping the banquet, the gambling, the king and the sacrifice. If we hold it in a stadium parking lot, we could tailgate, gamble, crown our MVP and sacrifice the opposition. Hmm. I guess the Romans’ Saturnalia has become our Super Bowl.