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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

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When’s The Next Leap Year?

When’s The Next Leap Year?

In 2015, February will have 28 days. But during “leap years,” the month extends to 29 days. Have you ever wondered why this is so? And when is the next one?

Year Leap Year Day
2016 Monday, February 29
2020 Saturday, February 29
2024 Thursday, February 29

The last leap year was 2012. The reason for the extra day during some years has to do with our need to keep our modern day Gregorian Calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the Sun.  Unlike the calendar, which organizes each year into a neat 365 days, it actually takes the Earth 365.242199 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds – to circle once around the Sun.  

Leap years, or intercalary years, as they are also called, date back to the reign of Roman emperor Julius Caesar, in 46 BC. At that time, Caesar in consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, decreed that a calendar year would be 365 days in length, and contain 12 months. Prior to that, the Romans followed an evolving series of calendars that were roughly based on the Greek lunar calendar, with a total of 354 days, and a “leap month” thrown in every few years to even things out.

Days were added to various months to bring the total number up to 365. Because the seasons didn’t exactly fit the 365-day year, the calendar ended about one-quarter day early, resulting in the calendar becoming a full day off every fourth year. To make up for the error, the Julian calendar, as Caesar’s calendar came to be called, added an extra day to the month of February every fourth year. Any year evenly divisible by four would be a leap year, which made the average length of the calendar 365.25 days.

However, the Julian calendar was still slightly off the mark. Caesar’s correction made the year 11 minutes and 14 seconds too long, which meant that, after 128 years, the calendar would end a full day later than the astronomical year. In 1582, Pope Gregory XII stepped in and ordered yet another correction to the calendar, resulting in the Gregorian calendar, which we use today. According to this reform, century years are not leap years, unless they are evenly divisible by 400. Thus, 1900 was not a leap year, but 2000 was. This made the average length of the calendar 365.244 days and reduced the calendar error to only one day in 3,322 years. During the 19th Century, astronomer John Herschel suggested dropping a leap year every 4000 years, to obtain even greater accuracy, however, his suggestion never received official support, in part because contemporary astronomers believe the point of the vernal equinox will change by the year 8000, making Herschel’s correction irrelevant.

So why do we call it a “leap” year, anyway?
Common (non-leap) years are composed of exactly 52 weeks, plus one day. This extra day means that if your birthday falls on a Tuesday in one common year, it will fall on a Wednesday the next common year, and so on. However, a leap year changes this scenario. A leap year is comprised of 52 weeks plus two days. So, if your birthday fell on a Wednesday last year, in a leap year it “leaps” over Thursday and lands on Friday. Thus, the name “leap year.”

 

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It’s Colder Than Cold!

It’s Colder Than Cold!

When we launched the 2015 edition last August, the raging debate was what type of winter would the US and Canada experience? Some folks said mild (can’t have two bad winters in a row!), and The National Weather Service spoke about a major El Niño possibly creating some mild conditions. We even put a P.S. in our winter weather predictions that if and El Niño happened, it could alter our time-trusted forecast. But we confidently proclaimed shivery and shovelry were going to be the terms to define the winter of 2015, and we’ve been on the money.

 We still have 4 more weeks of winter, but how is it going?

  • Buffalo had a lake effect storm dropping upwards of 6 feet of snow in one storm. Was this an anomaly?
  • The eastern half of the US has been brutalized by record cold and in recent weeks plenty of snow for the southeast.
  • Florida – any given day, it can warm, but they have had their share of winter temps to go with it.
  • Over 1,500 flights have been canceled in Dallas alone.
  • Niagara Falls frozen!?
  • Boston – narrow streets and unprecedented snow accumulations!
  • Concord, N.H. breaks a 146-year-old record for cold temperatures on Feb. 21st (-17 degrees) and is close to having the coldest month on record.
  • Maine – Bangor has set a record with 108” of snow and the coldest February in  history. This week will see -20s. Portland, Maine, averages 71” a winter, it has recorded  83” so far and climbing.

I’d love to hear your winter story. How cold has it been in  your world? I know parts of the US and Canada have escaped the worst but what does it look like outside your window?

Our next prediction is that while March will come in like a lion, we’ll see the end of winter the latter part of the month. That is unlike last winter when it snowed in parts of the US in April and May.  

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Niagara Falls Frozen Over, 1883

As temperatures plunged across the United States and Canada earlier this week, one of the more popular subjects of the record-breaking cold spell in the news and on social media has been the partial-freezing of Niagara Falls. While images of the majestic and powerful natural wonder appearing to be frozen over have no doubt captured the imaginations of millions, this is not the first time this has happened. Previous winters where temperatures dropped low enough to freeze parts of the falls include 1911, 1932, and 1977.

However, one of our favorite images of all time is this 1883 contribution from the notable Canadian-American photographer George Barker. The photograph is simply titled, “People on snow-covered ice at the base of the frozen American Falls, Niagara Falls, New York.”

niagara-falls-1883-george-barker

(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in traditional Chinese culture. Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar (meaning both the moon phase and the time of the solar year), the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the “Lunar New Year“.

When is the Chinese New Year?
The date of the Chinese New Year may occur anywhere from January 21 to February 21, as it falls on the second New Moon after the winter solstice. In 2015, it will be celebrated on February 19.

What is the Chinese New Year’s Animal Name?
Each new year is named for one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, which repeat every twelve years (rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig). Children born during those years are said to possess some of the qualities of that year’s totem.  2015 is the Year of the Sheep (or ram or goat).  People born in the Year of Sheep are tender, polite, clever, and kind-hearted. They have special sensitivity to art and beauty and a special fondness for quiet living. They are wise, gentle, compassionate and do well in business.

How is the Chinese New Year Celebrated?
The Chinese New Year is a fifteen-day celebration marked by visits with relatives, the wearing of new clothes, and the giving of gifts. Chinese poetry is pasted around doorways and a huge feast consisting of eight dishes (eight being a lucky number to the Chinese) is served.

The New Year celebration ends on the Full Moon on the fifteenth day with a Lantern Festival, which includes lantern displays and the famous dragon dance.

Superstition Associated With The Chinese New Year:

  • Housecleaning should be done before New Year’s Day to sweep away bad luck from the previous year. No sweeping or dusting is allowed on New Year’s Day so that good fortune will not be swept away.
  • All doors and windows must be open at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve to allow the old year to escape. It also allows the good luck of the New Year to enter.
  • Setting off firecrackers on New Year’s Eve scares away evil spirits while sending out the old year and welcoming the new one.
  • Precedents are set on New Year’s Day. Therefore, nothing should be loaned on this day, or else the lender will be loaning all year. Mischievous children are never spanked on this day to avoid tears destined to last the whole year through.
  • References to death or the past, the use of foul language and unlucky words, and the telling of ghost stories are all taboo on this day.
  • Children are given red packets or envelopes containing even numbered amounts of money since odd numbered amounts of money are traditionally given during funerals. (Odd and even numbers are determined by the first digit. For instance, “30” is an odd number.) The only exception to the rule is that $4 is never given, as the number four is bad luck — the Chinese word for “four” is a homophone for the word “death.” Eight dollars is commonly given, as the number eight is considered good luck.
  • Hair washing is forbidden, as it washes away good luck for the New Year. Haircuts are received before the New Year begins since it is thought cutting hair during the first lunar month of the year places a curse on maternal uncles.
  • Knives and scissors may not be used because they may cut off fortune.
  • Celebrants wear red to scare away evil spirits and bad fortune and ensure a bright future. Black and white should not be worn as black symbolizes bad luck, and white is a Chinese funeral color. People dress in all new clothes and shoes to symbolize a new beginning for the New Year.

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Sick of Winter?

Sick of Winter?

Each winter, around the mid-point, we like to check in with our readers and fans of our social media pages to see how they are holding up. There certainly has been no shortage of severe weather events across North America: frigid temperatures and large accumulations of snow (“shivery” and “shovelry”) in the Northeastern US and Canada, ice in the South, and continued drought in California.  So we wondered, are you enjoying winter this year where you live, or do you wish it would just go away?

A few years ago, we published our list of  Top Ten Reasons TO Wish Winter Away, and this list holds true today:

10. The birds are getting hungry and birdseed supply is getting low.

9. Your muscles ache from too much shoveling (and there’s no room to put the shoveled snow).

8. You can’t tell if that’s snow on the car or road salt.

7.  You have sweaty feet from wearing boots all the time.

6.  We are slowly getting more hours of daylight! Get out and enjoy.

5. Too many movie/TV nights. No more couch time. Let’s get outside and enjoy
some of nature’s entertainment.

4. Green grass is a much better and happier color.

3. The ability (and desire) to go outside without bundling up in layers.

2.  The smell of spring flowers and the return of leaves.

1. Fishing, gardening and baseball season.

What’s your reason to wish winter away? Share your thoughts in the comments below!  

Check out our list of Top Ten Reasons to NOT Wish Winter Away! 

 

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13 Reasons NOT to Fear Friday the 13th!

13 Reasons NOT to Fear Friday the 13th!

1. It’s Friday (one day closer to the weekend).

2. The movies – thankfully they haven’t made a 13th move version of Friday the 13.

3. There are two more this year – March and November.

4. Triskaidekaphobia– that’s one “disease” you can say you definitely don’t have.

5. You can wear your clothes inside out (supposedly it will bring you good luck on a Friday the 13).

6. If anything goes wrong, you have a good excuse.

7. You have a reason to take out your four-leaf clover or rabbit’s foot.

8. This month is almost half over (means we’re that much closer to spring!).

9. It’s just a number.

10. It’s a superstition – how many ladders have you walked under or black cats have crossed your path without any negative consequences?

11. Baker’s dozen – if you fear the number 13 you may never get that one extra free bagel, roll, or donut.

12. If you really want to, you can use it as an excuse to stay inside, stay home, and enjoy a “sick” day without being sick.

13. For me, I was born on a Friday the 13th, my dad too, and so far my life’s been pretty lucky.

What about you? Do you fear Friday the 13ths? Or can you add to the list of why NOT to fear them?

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How Many Ways Can You Say, “Happy Valentine’s Day”? 

How Many Ways Can You Say, “Happy Valentine’s Day”? 

The tradition of sending Valentine’s cards did not become widespread in the United States until the 1850s, when Esther A. Howland began mass producing them. Since then, millions of Valentine’s Day greetings cards have been exchanged, electronically and otherwise. Here’s how various people, monsters, and animals wish their lovers a happy Valentine’s Day:

  • A caveman: “Come to my man cave, where I can give you some uggs and kisses!”
  • A French chef: “Here’s a hug and a quiche!”
  • A painter: “My art paints for you!”
  • A munchkin: “Be my valentiny!”
  • A confectioner: “I’m sweet on you!”
  • A pickle salesman: “You’re always sweet and never sour! You mean a great dill to me!”
  • An electrician: “I love you a whole watt! You’re so bright! You really socket to me and turn me on!”
  • A magnet manufacturer: “I find you very attractive!”
  • A postal worker: “You have my stamp of approval! Your love envelopes me!”

Even monsters profess their love to each other on Valentine’s Day:

  • A skeleton:”I love every bone in your body, and I adore a body mass index of zero!”
  • A ghost: “You’re so boo-tiful. Let’s go out and dance sheet to sheet!”
  • A ghoul: “I love you drooly! Please be my ghoulfriend because demons are a ghoul’s best friend!”
  • A witch: “I want to sweep you off your feet and become your broommate!”
  • A dragon: “Baby, won’t you light my fire? You’re such a hottie!”
  • Dracula: “I want to be your neck romancer! I really like your blood type! It was love at first bite!”
  • Frankenstein: “Frank-ly, I do give a damn. You’ve stolen my heart! I’m Igor to go out with you! Please be my valenstein!”
  • The Hulk: “I’ve got a crush on you! If you will be my main squeeze, all the other girls will be green with envy because I’m such a ladykiller! When you get to know me, you’ll find I’m really the Jolly Green Giant!”
  • King Kong (to Queen Kong): “I go bananas over you! You’re the gorilla my dreams! Please be my gorillafriend!”
  • Queen Kong (to King Kong): “I love you, you big ape! You’re tall, dark and hairy, and you have the girls in the palm of your hand!”
  • The Mummy: “Tomb It May Concern: Hello, gore juice! I’m all wrapped up in you and want to tie the knot with you! I’m such a lucky stiff! It was love at first fright!”
  • Cyclops: “Thanks for catching my eye! I see everything eye to eye with you! You’re the only ONE EYE love!”

And here’s what animals say to each other on Valentine’s Day:

  • A dog: “Yappy Valentine’s Day! I love you drool-ly!”
  • A cat: “You’re a purrr-fect mate for me!”
  • A pig: “Happy Valenswine’s Day. I give you pig hogs and kisses, my pen pal!”
  • A skunk: “I’m very scent-imental about you!”
  • A bat: “You’re so much fun to hang down with that I’m heels over head in love with you!”
  • A sheep: “You are my embraceable ewe! You are my shear delight in a wild and woolly way!”
  • An elephant: “I love you a ton!”
  • A firefly: “It was love at first light. I really glow for you!”
  • A pigeon: “I dove coo, tweetheart!”
  • A squirrel: “I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and nuts about you!”
  • A snake: “Give me a little bug and a hiss!”
  • An octopus: “I wanna hold your hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand, hand!”
  • A centipede: “I love you so much that I’d wait on you hand and foot, foot, foot, foot, foot, foot, foot, foot, foot, foot . . . !”

This article appears in the Canadian edition of the 2015 Farmers' Almanac, page 110.

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Who Was Paul Bunyan?

Who Was Paul Bunyan?

Myth-sized man or man-sized myth, Paul Bunyan and his fabled companion, Babe the Blue Ox, have achieved life incarnate in the constant retelling of stories, theater productions, anecdotes, animation, festivals, songs, and literature. The larger-than-life legendary lumberjack has been a folk hero for generations.

But who was Paul Bunyan?

It seems that many U.S. States lay claim to being the birthplace of Paul Bunyan, from Maine to Minnesota, with stories abound about his logging exploits. Even Canada has been known to mark the fabled phenomenon as its own, with the arrow pointing to the nation’s 1837 Papineau Rebellion, where loggers armed with “axes, mattocks and large wooden forks,” according to one account, joined in the opposition to English rule.

Residents of Bangor, Maine, claim the city as not only the birthplace of the lumber industry, but the birthplace of Paul Bunyan, as well. There, Paul Bunyan Day is celebrated on February 12th, the supposed date of his birth. The statue of his likeness that stands in front of the Bangor Civic Center in Bass Park is “reputed to be the largest statue of Paul Bunyan in the world,” at 37 feet high, 3,700 lbs., and designed to withstand 110 mph winds. A time capsule is entombed in the statue’s pedestal, slated to be opened on February 12, 2084.

Brainerd, Minnesota, who claims he is their native son, has a Paul Bunyan theme park, called Paul Bunyan Land, which opened in 1950, and is believed to be the oldest and first amusement park with the Paul Bunyan theme.

The legendary lumberjack is also celebrated in North Dakota, where Paul Bunyan Day is on June 28th each year. According to the stories, Bunyan was a giant man with incredible physical strength who single-handedly established the logging industry, cleared North Dakota of its forests, dug out Lake Superior, and even trained carpenter ants to help his fellow loggers. It is believed a young woman named K. Bernice Stewart was the first person to write down the original Bunyan tales. Stewart collected the stories from local loggers while studying at the University of Wisconsin in 1914.

Some historians connect Bunyan’s name with the Quebecois term bon yenne, meaning to express surprise or astonishment. The English surname Bunyan, however, comes from the old French bugne, meaning large lump or swelling. Nineteenth century woodsmen are said to have promulgated the Paul Bunyan myth, regaling one another with tales of his size, strength, proportion, and valor around flickering camp stoves on coal-black nights.

Though the genesis of this favorite folkloric figure many never be known, Paul Bunyan is said to have first been popularized in print, in James McGillivray’s 1910 Detroit News-Tribune feature, Logging Tall Tales. In 1916, a promotional Red River Lumber Company pamphlet by writer William B. Laughead, who is credited with naming the blue ox, Babe, perpetuated the myth.

With his popularity and mass market appeal the subject of discourse among historians, academics, popular culture pundits, and others, the character of Paul Bunyan’s may simply be an aggregate of loggers and logging stories. His name and image continue to sell food products, sports items, clothing, and toys, and promote media, local businesses, and tourism. So much for a man that may never have existed!

Popular Myths About Paul Bunyan:

  • Five storks were engaged to deliver the over-sized baby to his parents.
  • As a newborn, he hollered so loud it scared all the fish and frogs out of the rivers and streams.
  • Two dozen cows per day had to be milked to keep his baby bottle full.
  • A team of oxen had to pull his baby carriage.
  • He could fit into his father’s clothing a week after his birth.
  • At four weeks old, he lumbered around so much he destroyed four square miles of prime timberland.

And About Babe the Blue Ox:

  • One winter, it was so cold the fish moved south, geese flew backward, and the snow turned blue. Uttered words froze in midair. On a late night walk in the woods, Paul Bunyan came upon a baby ox, blue from the cold. He brought him home to warm by the fire, but he always remained blue after that.
  • Lake Michigan was dug by Bunyan as a drinking hole for his favorite blue ox.
  • Babe’s primary role was to pull the kinks out of logging roads.

 Watch Walt Disney’s animated short, Paul Bunyan from 1958!

SAMSUNG CSC

The Paul Bunyan Statue in Portland, Oregon’s Kenton Commercial Historic District

bunyan-bangor 2

the 37-foot Paul Bunyan statue in Bass Park, Bangor, Maine

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Superstitions To Digest

Superstitions To Digest

The other day, I cracked an egg and saw a double yolk, the first time that’s ever happened to me. I was sure it had to mean something!

It sure does — eggs are a symbol of fertility, and apparently, getting a double yolk means someone I know will be having twins or getting married! It made me wonder, what other food superstitions are out there? I uncovered quite a few:

Garlic – One of the most long-held superstition about garlic is that it wards off vampires and evil. This originated because of garlic’s medicinal and healing properties. It was used during the Plague in Europe, also known as the Black Death, and actually protected some people from catching the deadly disease. In Romania, if a corpse was thought to be in danger of becoming a vampire, people stuffed cloves of garlic into the orifices of the corpse, especially the mouth. This was done in order to prevent evil spirits from entering the dead body.

Salt- We’ve all heard that if you spill salt, you should toss some over your left shoulder with your right hand. Ever wonder why? Superstition says that the Devil is always over your left shoulder, and the Angel is over your right (can you picture the cartoon of each whispering in your ear convincing you to do good or evil?), so if you toss the salt, it will blind the Devil and he can’t take your soul.

Bread – Superstition says that if you cut open a loaf of bread and see a large hole in the middle, someone in your life will die. The hole represents a coffin. We all know this is just an air bubble but it sure makes for an unsettling sandwich!

Rice – it used to be a common practice to throw rice at weddings (many use birdseed now), but did you ever wonder why? Tossing rice at a newly married couple is said to bring them wealth and happiness.

Hot peppers – did you know you’re not supposed to hand a friend a hot pepper? Doing so can put a strain on the friendship. You should put it on the table and let him or her pick it up. So use caution the next time you say, “pass the jalepenos!”

Black-eyed peas – In the South, they eat Hoppin’ John,  a dish made with black-eyed peas, for good luck and prosperity in the new year. The practice of eating black-eyed peas for luck dates back to the Civil War. The fields of black-eyed peas were ignored as Commander William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops destroyed or stole other crops, thereby providing a nutritional food source for surviving Confederates.

Bananas – Did you know it’s bad luck to cut a banana with a knife? You should break it into pieces. And fisherman folklore says never bring a banana on board a ship because boats carrying bananas don’t do well at catching fish. This superstition dates back to the early 18th century, when wooden boats in the Caribbean had to deliver bananas before they spoiled, and the fisherman on board couldn’t catch fish on such fast moving vessels. Another theory is that the bananas gave off gasses that could kill those below deck.

So these are just a few. What food superstitions do you know? Share them with us in the comments below!

 

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.