Leap Day

Leap Day is a day that is added to calendars on leap years. This extra day, which falls on February 29th, makes the year 366 days long instead of the usual 365 days. If this extra day weren’t added, then it wouldn’t take long for the dates on which the four seasons arrive—winter, spring, summer, and fall—to start coming earlier than expected and eventually destroy the integrity of the calendar.

History of Leap Day

Julius Caesar established the first leap day when he created his Julian calendar in 45 BCE. In this calendar, a leap day was added every four years. Leap Day was celebrated on February 24th, and the month of February was the final month of the year.

However, this system was not perfect. With a leap year added every four years, the average Julian calendar year was approximately 365.25 days long. Unfortunately, the time it takes for the Earth to travel around the sun is only 365.24 days.

This discrepancy meant that the calendar gained three days every 400 years. This issue was corrected in 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar to the world. This calendar uses a more precise method to calculate leap years than the Julian calendar.

Leap Day Customs & Traditions

There are a variety of Leap Day customs and traditions. For instance, some people who were born on Leap Day calculate their age at one-quarter of their actual age. Therefore, if a person born on Leap Day is 40, they might say they are only really 10 years old.

This custom has been practiced since the 19th century and is prevalent in children’s literature. In Ireland, women were allowed to propose to men on Leap Day, instead of the other way around. This is believed to be a way to balance the traditional roles of men and women.

This tradition occurs in other parts of Europe as well. However, in some places, if a man refuses a marriage proposal on Leap Day, he has to buy the woman 12 pairs of gloves, so she can hide her embarrassment about not having an engagement ring for the next year.

In many places, Leap Day is considered a lucky day. However, in some places, Leap Day is not so lucky. In Scotland, being born on Leap Day is considered very unlucky. In Greece, many people believe it is unlucky to get married on Leap Day.

When is it?
This year (2024)
February 29 Thursday
Culture & History