Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Year Facts

  • It was the ancient Egyptians who first figured out that the solar year and the man-made calendar year didn't always match up. That's because it actually takes the Earth a little longer than a year to travel around the Sun — 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, to be exact. Therefore, as the hours accumulated over the centuries, an extra day was occasionally added to the calendar, and over time the practice became more or less official.
  • The Romans first designated February 29 as leap day, but a more precise formula (still in use today) was adopted in the 16th century when the Gregorian calendar fine-tuned the calculations to include a leap day in years only divisible by four - 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024, etc.
  • Another stipulation ruled that no year divisible by 100 would have a leap year, except if it was divisible by 400. Thus, 1900 was not a leap year ... but 2000 was!
  • The town of Anthony, Texas, organises a leap year festival. It proudly calls itself the leap year capital of the world and leap year “babies”, or leaplings, around the world come to its parade.
  • In Greece, people believe it is bad luck to get married in a leap year. On the other hand, in Ireland, women can propose to a man.
  • According to a tale dating back to fifth century Ireland, St Brigid complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for men to propose marriage, and so he decided that in a leap year, women could take the initiative. However, if some sources are to be believed, Brigid was still a girl when Patrick died, which would make her a very precocious child!
  • A Scottish law enacted in 1288 – although unsubstantiated – by the unmarried and supposedly five-year-old Queen Margaret that allowed women the right to corner a man with a proposal. Men who refused would have to pay a fine in the form of a kiss, a silk dress or a pair of gloves.

  • There’s a similar custom in the United States that was born from the famous comic strip L’il Abner by American cartoonist Al Capp. In his fictional town of Dogpatch, there was a character called Sadie Hawkins, who couldn’t attract a husband because she was ugly. Her father then set up a day each year when women could literally chase after the bachelors in town in a race. The unlucky sod who is caught would have to marry the women who nabs him. While the event was held in November in the comic strip, it now seems to be associated with Feb 29.
  • Superstitious Chinese believe that more accidents and mishaps occur during the leap month in the lunar calendar. They also think that children born in that month are harder to bring up. Nor are they keen to start a business or get married then.
  • US Presidential elections and Summer Olympic Games are both held every four years and occur in the Leap Year.
  • A leaping frog is a universal symbol for Leap Day.

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