Happy Leap Year! A Fun History of the Extra Day

Happy Leap Year! A Fun History of the Extra Day

Leap Year only happens once every four years, but it proves to be even more than just an extra day. Here’s some fun history for this year’s Leap Day.

Earth’s full revolution isn’t 365 days
We have Leap Year because the earth’s year is 365.24219, the length of time it takes the earth to revolve once around the sun.

Et tu, Brute?
In 45 BC Julius Caesar invented the Julian calendar, adding an extra 24 hours to February 24th in order for the seasons to occur the same time every year. Caesar chose that day was because February was the last month of the year in his calendar and the last five days of the year were for feasting. However, Caesar’s calculation was a little off, so the seasons eventually ran behind.

Pope Gregory XIII
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII invented the Gregorian calendar to fix the season problem. Not only did he create a new calculation for the Lead Day and skip a number of days to correct Caesar’s calculation, but he also moved the last day of the year to December 31st.  The new calculation: three Leap Days are omitted every 4,000 years.

Will you marry me?
Historically, Leap Day has been known as Ladies’ Day! According to the BBC, the tradition of a woman proposing on Leap Year has been attributed to many historical figures. One popular story states Queen Margaret of Scotland brought in a law setting fines for men who turned down marriage proposal by women on a Leap Day. Some of the fines included a kiss, a silk dress or 12 pairs of gloves.

Leap babies
People born on February 29 are called “leaplings” or “leapers.” There are approximately five million people on the planet that share Leap Day as a birthday, with the chances of being born on February 29 being one out of 1,461. But if you are a leapling, you can join the ranks of The Honored. Astrologers also believe leaplings have unusual talents!

Leap Year capital
Anthony, Texas is the self-proclaimed “Leap Year Capital of the World.” The town holds a festival that has guided tours into the Aztec Cave, “fun at the horse farm,” and square dancing.

Historically speaking
All of the following events happened during a Leap Year:

  • Christopher Columbus used the lunar eclipse of Feb. 29, 1504 to his advantage during his final trip to the West Indies
  • Titanic sinking (1912)
  • First warrants issued in the Salem witchcraft trials in Massachusetts (1692)
  • Rome burned (64)
  • Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts (1620)
  • Gold discovered in California (1848)


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