A Brief History of the Leap Year

CAMILA DONOSO | FEATURES COLUMNIST

According to the Gregorian calendar, every four years we have to add an entire day to the shortest month of the year, Feb. Every four years we have a Feb. 29, and every four years we have 366 days in a year. This is used in order to maintain the seasonal changes and to keep the calendar as we know it the same.

This is because the Earth takes slightly longer than 365 days to completely orbit the sun–365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, to be exact. So, after four years, this extra time is enough to form a new day.

Research shows that the Egyptians were the first civilization that noticed the existence of this “extra time” on the calendar each year. They discovered it with their using knowledge of algebra and astronomy. The Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was the first one who officially added one extra day on the Romans´ calendar over 2000 years ago.

The chance that someone is born in a leap year is approximately 1 in 1400. The million-dollar question is should they celebrate their birthday on Feb. 28, or March 1 on the non-leap years? Or should they only celebrate it every four years?

In some cultures, leap year has a strong meaning in terms of weddings. In Ireland, women are encouraged to propose to men during this special year. This tradition goes back to the 5th century. On the other hand, in Greece, it has a bad connotation; they say that it is unlucky to get married during this year, especially on Leap Day.

Anyway, aside from all the scientific explanations and cultural traditions, the importance of this year is that you have an extra day. So do something different, something crazy and remember that it only happens every four years. You will have to wait until 2020 to have one again.

References

MCCAFFREY, J. (2012, february 28). CBS local. Retrieved from http://997now.cbslocal.com/2012/02/28/leap-year-fun-facts/

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