By: John Lee and Payton Suh
The History of Leap Day
At first, the 355-day calendar was adapted by the Romans, and it worked fine for most purposes, but there was a dilemma. Yearly festivals were not occurring during their correct seasons. To solve this, a 22 or 23 day month was created every second year. Julius Caesar pondered on how to innovate on this concept, and so he added days to different months of the year to create the 365-day calendar. Caesar’s astronomer, Sosigenes, was the one who made the actual calculations to make this possible. Also, one day was to be added every fourth year following the 28th day of Februarius (February 29th), making every fourth year a leap year.
The Leap Day’s Astronomical Justification
This special day, February 29, was added to our calendar so that the calendar coincides with the Earth’s revolution around the sun. The earth spends 365.242 days to completely orbit around the sun. Calendars would be off about 24 days in 100 years had Leap Day not been implemented. Within the Gregorian calendar today, a Leap Day was added to the month of February within a year which is divisible by 400, allowing for additional accuracy within the anticipation of seasonal adjustments. This allows for the occurrence of Passover upon its proper date, as well as the correct placement of Easter, which is the first Sunday following the Paschal Moon.
Fun Facts about Leap Day
- One in five engaged couples in Greece will plan to avoid getting married in a leap year. They believe it is bad luck.
- People born on February 29 are called “leaplings” or “leapers”.
- More than 10,000 people worldwide are members of the Honor Society of Leap Year Babies. It is a club for people born on Feb. 29.
- Some astrologers believe that people born on February 29 have unusual talents.
- The only recorded person known to historians that have both been born and died on February 29 was Sir James Wilson (1812–1880).
- The chances of being born on leap day is 1 in 1500.
- Karin Henriksen of Norway gave birth to all three of her children on February 29 – a daughter in 1960 and two sons in 1964 and 1968.
- In Hong Kong, China, the legal birthday of a leapling is March 1 in common years, while in New Zealand it is February 28. If you timed it correctly, traveling from one of the countries to the other, you could technically enjoy the world’s longest birthday!
Happy Leap Day from the Science Academy News Flash!