5 Interesting Things About Leap Years
When asked how many days in a year, the common answer is 365 days, but in actuality the Earth actually takes more than 365 days to complete a rotation; it takes about 365.2422 days. This translates to every year actually being a year and one quarter days. To account for this problem, every four years an additional day is added to the calendar. In the traditional Gregorian calendar adopted by a the United States and many other areas of the world, this day comes in the form of February 29. Years containing this extra calendar day are known as leap years. Since they only happen once every four years, people have long associate leap years with special traditions and customs. Below are five interesting things about Leap Years.
1. Women Can Propose to a Man on February 29th
Since the 19th century, tradition has stated that women have the right to propose to a man on February 29th. In times where gender roles were more concrete than today, this was considered a very unique and bold thing to do. The practice dates all the way back to 1288 where the tradition was first observed in Scotland. In recent years, the tradition has become more playful with the concept of the Sadie Hawkings Dance, where young girls ask boys to accompany them to the event.
2. Other Calendars Add a Month for Leap Year
The Chinese calendar, Hebrew calendar, and Hindu calendar all add an additional month or embolismic month to their calendar in accordance with the leap year. The Hebrew Calendar adds their leap year month, Adar Alef, seven times every 19 years. The Hindu calendar adds their extra month, Adhika, every two to three years to compensate for the 10-11 days that their calendar is off line with the actual solar year. The Chinese leap year month does not have a name and instead can be taken at different times in accordance with the winter solstice.
3. Many Major Events are aligned with Leap Years
The UEFA European Football Championship, Summer Olympic Games, United States Presidential Election and Winter Olympic Games (up until 1992) were all held on leap years. While there is no definitive reason why these events happen to only take place during leap years and it may be solely due to coincidence, they all help to make leap years particularly special.
4. Leap Day goes back to the Roman Empire
Julius Caesar declared that the last day of February to be Leap Year Day. He also declared that the day would be skipped three out of every four years. This was about the same time that Julius Caesar added the month of July to the original Roman calendar in his own honor.
5. Leap Years have to be Divisible by 400 at the end of the Century
The year 1900 was not a leap year, but the year 2000 was. This difference comes from the need to account for the slight rounding error that occurs by counting each year as 365.25 days when it is actually 36.24. By skipping leap years on turns of the century that are not divisible by 400, the Gregorian calendar is able to compensate for the 11 minute loss of accuracy each year.