When something happens every four years, it is usually pretty special. Presidential elections and inaugurations, the Olympics, and Leap Years are the most common events associated with a four year cycle. 2012 just happens to be a Leap Year.
February 29 can be a confusing date to some, and it is usually misunderstood as a date that screws with our internal calendars rather than viewed as a necessity. In its simplest definition, a Leap Year keeps our calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. One Earth revolution around the sun is equal to 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds. Since our calendar is almost exactly 365 days, if we didn’t add a Leap Year in every four years, we would lose approximately six hours every year. Think of all the studying you can fit in six hours!
According to About.com, Julius Caesar first implemented the Leap Year around 45 BCE by announcing that every year divisible by four would be a Leap Year. A simple concept to be sure, but after a few centuries it was discovered that this rule would actually create too many leap years, which led to the creation of the Gregorian rule which we still use to this day.
The Gregorian rule named after Pope Gregory XIII was decreed in the year 1582. The Gregorian rule stipulates if a year can be evenly divisible by the number four, and not by the number 100 (unless it was also divisible by the number 400) then the year is a Leap Year. A lot of confusing rules for a mere extra six hours a year, right? If we didn’t add this extra day every four years, in 100 years our solar year and our calendar year would be 25 days apart and eventually our seasons would not match up with the months we most commonly associate them with.
Why February? One of the first Roman calendars used constituted only 10 months in a year beginning with March, so when January and February were finally introduced to the calendar, February- the shortest month of the year, was considered the last month of the year.
So what makes this day so special? Well, who wouldn’t want an extra day in their year to enjoy!
Some interesting facts and myths surrounding leap year include:
• On February 29, women “may” propose to men, and he will be cursed with bad luck if he turns her down.
• When Pope XIII proposed his new rule in 1582, it required the calendar to change from October 4, to October 15. People rioted because they thought they were being cheated out of ten days of their lives.
• The chances of being born on a Leap Year are one in 1,500.
• People born on Leap Day are called Leaplings.
• On the 1960 Leap Year, the first Playboy Club opened in Chicago.
• The rapper Ja Rule was born on Leap Day in 1976.
So however you decided to use your extra day- whether it was studying, taking a break from studying, hanging with friends, or taking a day to yourself, hopefully you used it wisely because you won’t see that extra day for another 1,460 days!