It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
The Leap Day (which happens to be today) is a day in the Gregorian calendar that comes about once in four years. This additional day--February 29--is alloted to a leap year in order to keep the calendar synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year.
A leap day is added because it takes the earth a little more than 365 days to revolve around the Sun--it actually takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds for one revolution. The addition of another day every four years helps account for this discrepancy.
Although a leap day (or leap year) generally occurs once in four years, it sometimes comes around only after eight years! This is the case with years that are evenly divisible by 100 but not by 400. Therefore, the year 1900 was not a leap year, but the year 2000 was!
Initially, the Romans came up with the concept of a leap day based on their astronomical knowhow. They assigned 29 days to February to accommodate this day. However, it was only in the 18th century--when the Gregorian calendar was designed--that a precise calculation to allot a leap day once every four years was devised.
While February 29 might seem like an astronomical afterthought, there have been quite a few notable events that have occurred on this rarest of days. Here are a few of them.
1468 - Pope Paul III was born.
1896 - Former Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai was born.
1908 - French painter Balthus was born.
1956 - American President Dwight D. Eisenhower announces he's running for a second term.
1988 - Archbishop Desmond Tutu and 100 clergymen are arrested during a five-day anti-apartheid demonstration in Cape Town.
2004 - After a coup in Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide is removed from his post as President.
Trivia: A person born on February 29 in the United Kingdom is considered to have turned 18--and become an adult--only on March 1 of their 18th year!
Here are some interesting Leap Day traditions from around the globe:
- According to an Irish legend, St Bridget and St Patrick decided that women should be allowed to propose men once every four years to balance gender roles. This role-reversal is sometimes celebrated on February 29. Which is why Leap Day is called 'Bachelor's Day.'
It is said that if a man turns down a woman's proposal on this day, he is required to pay a penalty in some cultures. This was actually a law in the middle ages!
- Leap Day is considered to be an unlucky day in Scotland. Babies born on February 29 are not looked at favorably!
- In Greece, most people avoid getting married during a leap year. And they absolutely stay away from the altar on February 29!
-Picture courtesy Thinkstock-
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