29 February 2008

leap day facts

leap year facts courtesy www.timeanddate.com


Leap Day – February 29
Leap day (February 29) is an intercalary day inserted in a leap year. Leap day has been associated with age-old traditions, superstitions and folklore. It is also recognized as a day of observances and celebrated as a birthday for those born on February 29.

Leap Day
Leap day, also known as leap year day, is an extra day added to the month of February in a leap year. February 29 is the 60th day of a leap year in the Gregorian calendar. It occurs every four years in years evenly divisible by four except for centenary years not divisible by 400.

A leap day is more likely to occur on Mondays or Wednesdays rather than other days because the Gregorian calendar repeats itself every 400 years. Therefore February 29 can occur 15 times on a Monday or Wednesday, 14 times on a Friday or Saturday and 13 times on a Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday.

Brief History of Leap Day
In ancient Rome, leap day was on February 24 due to February being the last month of the calendar. The original Roman calendar added an extra month every few years to maintain the correct seasonal changes. The Julian calendar was implemented in 45 BCE, resulting in a leap day being added to the end of February every four years.

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII refined the Julian calendar with a new rule that a century year is not a leap year unless it is evenly divisible by 400. The introduction of the Gregorian calendar was observed in some countries including Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. The conversion took longer for other countries such as Great Britain (1752) and Lithuania (1915).

Tradition, Folklore and Superstition
A tradition was introduced many centuries ago to allow women to propose to men during a leap year. This privilege of proposing was restricted to leap day in some areas. Leap day was sometimes known as “Bachelors’ Day”. A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage offer from a woman.

The tradition’s origin stemmed from an old Irish tale referring to St Bridget striking a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men every four years. This old custom was probably made to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how the leap day balances the calendar.

It was also considered to be unlucky for someone to be born on a leap day in Scotland and for couples to marry on a leap year, including on a leap day, in Greece.

Observances on February 29
Leap day is also St Oswald’s Day, named after a 10th century archbishop of York who died on February 29, 992. The feast is celebrated on February 29 during leap years and on February 28 in other years.

February 29 is one of the days of Ayyám-i-Há (February 26 to March 1) in the Bahá'í calendar. These days are dedicated to fasting preparations, charity, hospitality and gift-giving.

click here and link to read more