It’s well-established that every four years we have a Leap Year and an extra date in the diary. And with the 29th February firmly in our 2016 calendars, we take a look at the tradition itself and why it does in fact exist. We’ve all surely heard of people having their birthdays fall on the once-in-a-four-year date, but why do we have a Leap Day? And what are the superstitions and stories behind it?
1. It’s all down to the Solar System
The whole reason we have one extra day in our calendars every four years is due to a tiny bit of chaos within the solar system. It turns out that one whole Earth year, or the time it takes for the Earth to orbit the sun, inconveniently does not take an exact number of days and, in fact, takes approximately 365.2422 days. These extra numbers at the end add an extra day every four years.
2. What’s the 29th all about?
Have you ever wondered why February has fewer days than all the other months and why the leap day is February 29th and not the 30th or 31st like others? Well, it all comes down to Roman times, when the emperor Caesar Augustus was pretty miffed that Julius Caesar had given February 30 days. As Caesar’s own month, August, had only 29 days and yet Julius’ month, July, had 31, Caesar was not impressed. So he had a little muddle with the calendar and decided to nab a couple of days from another month, and unfortunately, it was February that lost out.
3. Thinking of a marriage proposal?
So the old tradition says that if a woman wants to propose to her loved one, then it should be done on Leap Day. The reason for this dates way back to the 5th century, where St Bridget was thought to be frustrated that women had to wait, and too long a time too, for their suitors to propose. It is thought that to appease her, St Patrick gave women a single day on the last day of the shortest month to propose. Other stories have emerged over the centuries, but it is not thought to have gathered pace until the 19th century.
4. Odds of having your birthday on Leap Day
With Leap Day only coming round once every four years, you’d expect the chance of your birthday appearing on that day to be pretty slim, wouldn’t you? Well the odds actually state that the probability of birth is one in 1,461. Babies that are born on February 29th are typically known as ‘leapers’ or ‘leaplings’.
5. Around the World
The tradition of women proposing to men varies around the globe, with different countries taking on a slightly different twist. In Denmark, for example, women are urged to propose on the 24th of the month rather than the 29th, which again dates back to the day of Julius Caesar. Unlike the UK, where a man’s refusal results in little more than a possible wave goodbye, in Denmark, he must give the lady 12 pairs of gloves. In Greece, however, getting married in a Leap Year is deemed unlucky, causing many couples to avoid the practice altogether.
6. The Year of the Frog
The animal of choice to represent Leap Day is in fact the frog. Perhaps its association with the term ‘leapfrog’ is the reason, who knows? It is the animal symbol used to represent the Leap Year. And, although there is no specific food used to celebrate the day, if there was, it is probable it would be frog’s legs.
7. Any unusual talents?
People born on February 29th are often thought to have some surprising and unexpected talents. In fact, astrologers put it directly down to their Leap Day connections and consider you to be pretty special. So, if you’ve got the urge to play classical music like Mozart, have a penchant for art like Picasso or writing books like J.K. Rowling, then you could just be extraordinary according to the Astrologers.
Have you got any special plans for this Leap Day? Or heard of any unusual quirks? We’d love to hear about them. Tweet us, share them with us on Facebook or send us a pic on Instagram.