Leap span for 2012
2012 is the Year of the Black Dragon, characterized as having an exceptional leap period of time based both on the solar (the Gregorian or yang) calendar and the lunar (the so-called Chinese or yin) one. The most common way to reconcile the two is to vary the number of days in the calendar year.
The Earth goes around the sun every 365 days plus approximately six hours. A leap year, however, consists of 366 days, as opposed to a normal year. Due to our need to stay in the good graces of the rest of the solar system, we add a leap day to the solar, or tropical, calendar every four years.
Even though Feb. 29, 2012 was buried in the middle of the week (on a Wednesday), we got the gift of the extra day. Ordinary people may envy the babies born that day who will age four times slower than the general population.
The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar one. A lunisolar calendar is one in many cultures whose date indicates both the moon phase and the time of the solar year. By the Chinese calendar, the first day of a month is when an astronomical new moon occurs in a particular time zone. It is easier to understand for those who can read Chinese characters. Some forms of the calendar have been in use for almost five millennia. Lunisolar calendars may require intercalations of both days and months.
The 384-day lunar calendar is not exclusive to China, followed by many other Asian countries as well including Korea, as exemplified by the Chinese New Year and the mid-autumn Chuseok festival. Lunar leap years are needed to keep our calendar aligned with the Earth’s revolutions around the moon.
A leap month is the average time between two identical syzygies between successive new or full moons. The leap month lasts from April 21 to May 20 this year. The leap month has conventionally been thought to be the period during which the god of the earth and the sky take a rest and stop monitoring mankind. The length of a month orbit is different to predict and varies from its average value.
Therefore, people in Korea traditionally dig up tombs, move them to one location or prepare funeral portraits or shrouds in the lunar leap month. Crematoriums nationwide are being flooded with phone reservations and Internet applications. Bookings are normally accepted at least two weeks in advance.
On the other hand, people tend to avoid happy occasions during the leap month. Despite the ideal month called “May queen” or “May bride,” many people have been delaying their wedding until June, affecting the whole wedding industry from caterers to honeymoon travel agencies.
In addition, Korea has been faced with prospective foreign tourists especially from China during the leap month, enticed by a massive sale for hundreds of quality products on offer at fairly inexpensive prices. It is not even easy for Korean citizens to reserve seats on domestic airlines flying to Jeju Island and other well-known tourist destinations in the country or find hotel accommodation during the leap month.
Everlasting heritage and tradition are rarely forgotten and disconnected by Asians or other people and have great impacts on their daily lives, irrespective of religious conviction, horoscope choice or superstition. In Korea, folklore differs from one region to another based on interpretations of what the leap month signifies.
The changeless beliefs surrounding the leap month are mostly seasonal customs across the nation. We have to take them for granted as our own fate and destiny need to be in good shape for bequeathing good fortune to our neighboring posterity.
Nobody can afford to suddenly neglect such powerful social emotions.
The writer is an outside director of Samyang Tongsang Co., in Seoul. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.