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Where Did The Leap Year Come From?


Leap Day | Where does the leap year come from

What does it mean when there is a Leap Year?

Every four years, we have an extra day in the calendar called Leap Day. Instead of there being 28 days in the month of February, there are 29. We are reminded that there are some people born on this date and can make jokes about how that one friend is “technically only six years old, and not twenty-four…” (Which, by the way, just means that their birthday is the day after February 28th, so legally, March 1st).


Origin of the Leap Year

Leap years were first introduced into the western calendar by Roman General Julius Caesar. A rule was implemented into the Julian calendar, and this was that any year evenly divisible by four would be considered a leap year. This eventually caused the Julian calendar to drift from the tropical year, by one day every 128 years. Eventually, this was corrected with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar over 1500 years later. This was done by having a number of days skipped in order to correctly realign the calendar with the seasons.


Customs Relating to Leap Day

Since the concept of a Leap Year has been around for over 2,000 years now, there have been a number of customs developed in different countries, relating to leap day. There is an old Irish legend in which St. Brigid and St. Patrick made a deal to allow women to propose to men, specifically on leap day, and not just the other way around (We’ve come a long way since then…) Leap Day has been considered unlucky, by some. In Scotland, it used to be considered unlucky for someone to be born on leap day, and the Greeks would consider it bad luck for couples to marry during a leap year, and even more so on February 29th.

Although you could say there is a little less superstition in today’s society, February 29th only occurring every four years certainly makes for an interesting birthday, and it’s all because of Julius Caesar.

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