St Valentine’s Day and The Leap Year
On February 14th, British people traditionally celebrate St Valentine’s Day, while on 29th February, it’s a leap year.
February can feel like a time of the year when very little happens in London. Christmas is a distant memory, and the first green shoots of Spring are still a long way in the future. February is also traditionally a time for poor weather, so you’re likely to need your umbrellas and waterproof clothing if you’re out and about in London this month.
However, there’s more going on in February than you might think, and it can be a fantastic time for expanding your English language skills and British cultural awareness. Here is some more information about language and customs you can expect to hear, read or see on these two dates:
The Leap Year
2016 is a leap year, which means it’s one day longer than a usual 365-day year. You’re probably familiar with the concept of leap years, since they happen internationally, but it can be useful to understand some typical English terminology that you might hear when people are talking about the leap year.
Leap year: this is the name given to a year which has an extra day added to it. This happens every four years (when the year is divisible by the number 4) and the extra day is always February 29.
Leap years were introduced by the Roman emperor Julius Caesar over 2000 years ago.
Leap day: this is the name given to February 29.
Gregorian calendar: this is the basis of the calendar used across the Western world. While you may not hear it referred to as the “Gregorian calendar” most of the time, you may hear this phrase more often during February.
St Valentine’s Day
As we approach St Valentine’s Day (or just “Valentine’s Day”), you’ll no doubt notice that shops become full of traditional symbols of love, such as hearts and roses. It’s traditional in the UK that St Valentine’s Day is a day where couples will express their love for each other by exchanging cards and gifts. While the day has its roots in the Christian church as a saint’s day, Valentine’s Day has become increasingly commercialised in recent years.
Here are some terms you might hear around Valentine’s Day:
Saint Valentine: Saint Valentine was a third century Roman saint. It’s thought that his saint’s day became associated with the idea of love because he secretly helped Christian couples to get married.
Cupid: is the God of love in classical mythology and is often pictured with a bow and arrow. When two people fall in love, it’s often said that Cupid has fired his arrows at them – in mythology, if you’re hit by his arrow you will be filled with love for the object of your affection. Of course, no one really believes this, but you’ll still see pictures of and references to Cupid around this time of year.
Boyfriend/girlfriend: When two people are in a romantic relationship, they might refer to themselves as a boyfriend or a girlfriend.
Fiance/fiancée: While this word is originally French, it has been naturalised into the English language, although unusually for English, the male and female forms are widely used. It’s a way of referring to the person you’ve agreed to marry.