The Newspaper That is Published Only on 29th February

Mar 2, 2020 0 comments

La Bougie du Sapeur

The French newspaper, La Bougie du Sapeur, has been publishing for the last 40 years. Yet, there has been only eleven issues so far. Why? Because it’s published only on Leap Day, i.e., 29th of February.

La Bougie du Sapeur began as a joke in 1980 between two friends, the polytechnician Jacques De Buisson and Christian Bailly, a press enthusiast and collector of old newspapers. The newspaper's name, literally “The Sapper's Candle”, refers to a cartoon character created in the late nineteenth century, the Sapper Camember. In the story, Camember was born on 29 February and joined the army when he had celebrated his birthday only four times.

The 20-page satirical newspaper is filled with puns, jokes, wordplay, and interviews, both true and false, and saucy notes and comments on the news of the last four years.

“We talk about the news of the last four years, but we still focus on the subjects that remain in people's memories,” explains Viscount Jean D'Indy, the current editor of the newspaper. "We talk about Brexit, we talk about ecology, we talk about subjects that last. We're a serious press," he says ironically.

The newspaper resembles that of a daily, with the main sections dedicated to politics, news about the economy and about international life. But the further you go in the newspaper, the lighter the subjects become such as  entertainment and sport. They also have a section called “Last Minute”, which is ironic, given the periodicity of the newspaper.

La Bougie du Sapeur

Jean d'Indy holding a bundle of 2016’s issue of the newspaper. Photo: Cyril Small / JDD

The essence of this newspaper with its unusual periodicity is obviously humor.

"We've postponed some things for the next edition: for example, we've decided to publish the 2016 crossword puzzle solution in the 2024 newspaper," says Jean D'Indy with a laugh.

“Laughter is good for your health and as such it should be reimbursed by social security,” Jean D'Indy says.

You might think that it is difficult to build customer loyalty when you publish a newspaper every four years, but for 2020, La Bougie du Sapeur pulled an astounding figure of 200,000 copies distributed across France, as well as in Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. The high number of sales have allowed this newspaper to survive without using advertising to finance its issues. The newspaper even donates part of its income to the association called “A tire d'aile”, which helps autistic and epileptic people.

La Bougie du Sapeur sells for 4.80 Euros per issue, but if you wish to become a long-time reader, subscriptions are available for 100 Euros per century.

La Bougie du Sapeur

This year’s issue.

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