Christopher Columbus was not particularly known for his genius. After all, he thought a manatee was a mermaid and the Bahamas were India. But on the evening of February 29, 1504, he showed himself to be a bit of a clever fellow and quite the showman to boot. Having stopped in Jamaica to make ship repairs during his fourth voyage (chances are, he had finally figured out that this was not India) he befriended the local natives (whom he referred to as the Pakistanis). However, Columbus’ crew was a surly lot and they soon wore out their welcome.
“When are you guys leaving?” the natives asked subtly. Then, when the Europeans refused to leave, the Jamaicans cut off their food and ganja.
The Europeans wanted to slaughter their rude hosts, but Columbus had a plan. He invited the Jamaican leaders to a late night pow wow. After a few rums and tokes, Columbus told his guests that his god was quite annoyed at their behavior and he was going to do something really nasty like smite them all dead. The Jamaicans were quite amused. Columbus then relented on the smiting part, but as punishment he said he would take away their moon. They were still quite amused, but when the moon began to disappear they changed their tune in a hurry, begging Columbus to please return their moon. Columbus said he would return their moon in exchange for all their papayas and all their pot.
It is lost to history how or if Columbus knew the moon would disappear that night. Perhaps it was just a lucky guess. Nevertheless, smug after his performance, Columbus warned the Jamaicans that they’d best behave. To remind them of his great power, he then told them that he would make February 29 disappear the following year and for three years after that.