Leap year antics
The 29th of February is almost an enigma. What is a leap year anyway and why every four years, Why February? and not January or any other month? how did it come to pass that women can officially propose to men on this day. Puzzled? Unfurrow that forehead. In the spirit of enlightenment peppered with amusement, these questions are answered below.
What is a leap year? In a leap year an extra day is added to February every four years. This is to adjust for the solar systems disparity with the Gregorian calendar. A complete orbit of the earth around the sun takes exactly 365.2422 days to complete, but the Gregorian calendar uses 365 days. So leap seconds – and leap years – are added as means of keeping our clocks (and calendars) in sync with the Earth and its seasons.The leap seconds add up to a day roughly every 4 years.
Why does the extra day fall in February?All the other months in the Julian calendar have 30 or 31 days, but February lost out to the ego of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Under his predecessor Julius Caesar, Feb had 30 days and the month named after him – July – had 31. August had only 29 days. When Caesar Augustus became Emperor he added two days to ‘his’ month to make August the same as July. So February lost out to August in the battle of the extra days.
Why does a leap year occur every 4 years ? Technically, a leap year isn’t every four years. Confused? You soon will be :-). The year 2000 was a leap year, but the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. The convoluted explanation is that there’s a leap year every year that is divisible by four, except for years that are both divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400. The added rule about centuries (versus just every four years) was an additional fix to make up for the fact that an extra day every four years is too much of a correction.
How did the tradition of women proposing in a leap year begin? One theory is that the custom dates back to the 5th Century, when, legend has it, an Irish nun called St Bridget complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose. St Patrick then supposedly gave women the chance to ask the question every four years.
Enjoy the 29th! If you do decide to do something crazy like propose to your boo good luck! Share your successful proposal with us and a RDS tailored shirt will wing its way to you! Happy February 29th
Reina de Santiago Team