Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Take A Flying Leap!

Today is February 29, aka Leap Day.  The quadrennial event that adds a day to our shortest month, perhaps to make it feel like a REAL month?

But really, why do we need Leap Days/Leap Years?

Leap Years are needed as an adjustment to keep us in sync with our (meaning the Earth) traveling around the sun. It takes approximately 365.242199 days (a tropical year) for good ol' Earth to circle around the Sun once. If we didn't add a year once every quadrennium (okay, I think I made that word up!), eventually our summers would be covered with snow and icy and we wouldn't need to head south for a warmer winter!

The Gregorian calendar has 365 days in a year, so if we didn't add a February 29 nearly every 4 years, we would lose almost six hours off our calendar every year. After 100 years, our calendar would be off by 24 days!

Did you know that Leap Year is NOT automatic?

Some guy named Greg Orian* set up three criterion must be met to be a leap year:
  1. The year is evenly divisible by 4;
  2. If the year can be evenly divided by 100, it is NOT a leap year, unless;
  3. The year is also evenly divisible by 400. Then it is a leap year.
This means that 2000 and 2400 are leap years, while 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, 2300 and 2500 are NOT leap years.

The year 2000 was special as it was the first instance when the third criterion was used in most parts of the world since transitioning from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar.

Leap Day has some fun traditions and odd events.

One of the more famous is that women can propose marriage to men. In some places, Leap Day has been known as “Bachelors’ Day” for the same reason. A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.

In Scotland, it was considered unlucky to be born on Leap Day, just like Friday 13th is considered an unlucky day by many. In Greece it’s said to be unlucky for couples to marry during a Leap Year, and especially on Leap Day.

People born on February 29 are all invited to join The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies. Members are known as Leapers!

According to the Guinness Book of Records, one family holds the records for both producing three consecutive generations born on February 29 and of the number of children born on February 29 in the same family.

*Do I need to explain the Greg Orian reference?  Gregorian.  'nuff said!

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