First Sunday in Lent, Burgbrennen, Luxembourg; Leap Year Day
A note about the dating of items in Wilson's Almanac
On the first Sunday in Lent (Invocabit), fires are lit on the hills. The word is derived from the Latin verb comburere, ('to burn'), the first syllable being dropped and the second one corrupted to 'burg'. Originally Burgbrennen was a pagan rite symbolising the victory of the sun over winter.
Young boys used to go from house to house, begging for straw, wood and faggots. They would make a bonfire which, in Christian times, featured a wooden cross. The 'burg' is still set alight by the most recently married man (probably a reminiscence of an old pagan fertility ceremony). Sometimes a wheel is put on top of the pole and covered with rags soaked in oil, reminiscent of the Catherine Wheel (see November 25).
The people of Luxembourg traditionally also burn such a bonfire at Easter, representing the rebirth of nature; the St John's Eve burg (June 23) evoking the summer solstice; and finally the Martinmas fire standing for the fading away of Autumn.
Luxembourg Traditions in USA
"The custom of kindling bonfires on the first Sunday in Lent has prevailed in Belgium, the north of France, and many parts of Germany … It seems hardly possible to separate from these bonfires, kindled on the first Sunday in Lent, the fires in which, about the same season, the effigy called Death is burned as part of the ceremony of 'carrying out Death'."
When Caesar Augustus added a 31st day to the month named after him, so that it would not lack the dignity of having the full complement of days, he took a day from February, which could least spare it.
Bissextile"We add a day to February in leap year, but the Romans counted 24 February twice, and called it dies bissextus (sexto calendas Martius), the sextile or sixth day before 1 March. This day was reckoned twice (bis) in leap year, which was called annus bissextus."
Ivor H Evans, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Cassell, London, 1988
"In 46 BC, Julius Caesar … created a calendar system that added one leap day every four years. Acting on advice by Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes, Caesar did this to make up for the fact that the Earth's year is slightly more than 365 days. In modern terms, the time it takes for the Earth to circle the Sun is slightly more than the time it takes for the Earth to rotate 365 times (with respect to the Sun – actually we now know this takes about 365.24219 rotations). So, if calendar years contained 365 days they would drift from the actual year by about 1 day every 4 years. Eventually July (named posthumously for Julius Caesar himself) would occur during the northern hemisphere winter! By adopting a leap year with an extra day every four years, the calendar year would drift much less. This Julian Calendar system was used until the year 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII added that leap days should not occur in years ending in '00' except if divisible by 400, providing further fine-tuning. This Gregorian Calendar system is the one in common use today. Therefore, even though this year 2000 ends in '00', it remains a leap year, and today is the added leap day. That makes today the first leap day for a centurial year since year 1600 and the second such leap day of the Gregorian Calendar." Source