February 29 – Once Every Four Years

Falyn Katzman, Assistant Editor

We all know what a leap year is, but do we know why it is necessary? A leap year consists of 366 days instead of the usual 365 days. During leap years, February 29th is added to the calendar as an intercalary day. This happens nearly every 4 years.

We need leap years to keep our calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolution around the sun. It takes the Earth approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to circle the sun. If we didn’t add an extra day, February 29th, nearly every 4 years, we would lose 6 hours off the calendar every year. After 100 years, the calendar would be off by 24 days!

Leap year was created by Julius Caesar in the Roman Empire over 2000 years ago. His calendar stated that any year evenly divisible by 4 would be a leap year. If this was still in use, there would be too many leap years. This problem was corrected by the Gregorian calendar more than 1500 years later. While the year must still be evenly divisible by 4, it’s not a leap year if the year is evenly divisible by 100 unless it can also be divisible by 400.

The big question is when do you celebrate your birthday if it’s on a leap year? If you are born before noon on February 29, your birthday is considered to be the 28th. If you are born 12:01 P.M. or later on the 29th, your birthday is considered to be March 1st.

An old Irish legend states that St. Bridget made a deal with St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men on Leap Day. This tradition is said to have been introduced to balance the roles of men and women; similar to how Leap Day balances the calendar! In European countries, if a man refuses a woman’s proposal, he must buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The reason for that is so the woman could wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring.