February 29th, 2016
Leap Year is the 29th day of February, an occurrence which happens every four years when the calendar year has 366 days, instead of just 365. Why do we end up with an extra day? Because it takes the Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to orbit the sun and the regular calendar just has 365 days. Every four years, another day added to synchronize the solar year with the calendar year. If we didn’t do that, eventually the months would become out of sync with the seasons.
This isn’t a new phenomenon; this has been happening for thousands of years! The Egyptians were some of the first to see the need for a calendar based on the sun, but it was under Julius Caesar that it was implemented. Prior to that, the Roman calendar had used a lunar model which sometimes had to add an extra month so they maintained consistency. In 46 BC, the Roman calendar was changed so that it had 12 months and 365 days.
By 1582, the calendar dates were out of sync with the seasons. Roman Pope Gregory XIII ordered that 1583 be shortened by 10 days to “re-sync” the calendar and he established the system of adding leap-year days every four years to the calendar to keep it from falling behind the seasons again. The “Gregorian Calendar” was named for the pope and is the world standard today.
Fun fact: In Ireland, there is a legend that St. Brigid, a fifth century nun, asked St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, for permission for women to propose marriage, instead of waiting for their shy suitors to pop the question! St. Patrick granted her request, but with the stipulation that it could only happen on one day, every four years, Leap Day! Today, there are some who take this legend as truth and think that the woman proposing on Leap Day leads to good luck!
If you’re intrigued by this legend, check out the charming DVD “Leap Year” staring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode.
While the odds of having a Leap Year Day birthday are approximately 1 in 1,500, there are about 4 million people worldwide who have February 29 birthdays. The town of Anthony, Texas has been hosting a “Leap Year Birthday Festival” since 1988!
Do you know anyone with a birthday on February 29?