Have you ever wondered why we add an extra day to the end of February every four years? Well thanks to our sources at the Telegraph Media Group…here’s the history behind Leap Year.
The simple explanation for leap year is this: it takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 47 seconds for the Earth to circumnavigate the sun. A year on Earth is only 365 days, leaving us those extra hours, minutes and seconds just hanging out there. The solution to the extra time is to combine them every four years and add one more day – Feb. 29 – on the calendar. If we didn’t use up the time it would add up and eventually we’d wind up with what we now consider summer months in the middle of winter.
The history of leap year
When Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar in 46 BC, it had 365 days with 366 every fourth year. That calendar, however, gave the month of February 30 days and August 29. Under Julius Caesar, February had 30 days and the month named after him – July – had 31. August had only 29 days. That didn’t sit well with Caesar Augustus. When he took control, he moved things around, giving August (the month named after him) 31 days and reducing February to 28.
In 1582, the United Kingdom moved to the Gregorian calendar (named for Pope Gregory XIII) and it was determined it took longer than the exact 365 days for the Earth to navigate the sun. Leap day (Feb. 29) was added to solve this problem but even that’s not a perfect solution. To make up for that problem, the Gregorian calendar removes three leap days every 400 years.
An easy trick
Wondering if a year is a leap year or not? Here’s a simple trick – sort of. If a year can be divided evenly by four it is a leap year BUT if the year can be divided by 100 or by 400 and then it’s not a leap year. (to make up for the whole Gregorian calendar error thing.)
Leap year birthdays
About.com estimated that the chances of being born on Feb. 29 are one in 1,461. In all, less than 0.07 percent of the world’s population was born on leap day. That translates to about 25,000 people in the U.S. being born on Feb. 29. There are several famous people who are leap day babies, including rapper Ja Rule, model Antonio Sabato Jr., motivational speaker Tony Robbins and the late actress Dinah Shore.
People born on Feb. 29 are called “leapers” or “leaplings.”
One of the oldest traditions says that women can propose to men on leap day. Traditions holds that St. Bridget, an Irish nun, complained to St. Patrick (yes, that St. Patrick) that women had to wait too long for their loves to propose so he granted an exception every four years. The tradition also states that women have to wear pants or red before they can propose.
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