LEAP YEAR may just seem like an extra day every four years but there’s at least one tradition, and cultural beliefs associated with it.
To keep the calendar in sync with the seasons, the extra day is added because a year is actually 365.2422 days long and staying with 365 days each year would put the calendar out of whack with the seasons – a loss of six hours per year and in 100 years, the calendar would be more than 24 days ahead of the season.
So instead of summer starting in June, as it’s supposed to, it wouldn’t start until July.
Adding an extra day every four years meant there was a Feb. 30 at one time or the days of the month were changed and changed again until the best solution was found.
In ancient times, a lunar calendar was often used, which meant 12 or 13 months every year – the 13th month added as a “leap month” every two or three years.
Several countries in Asia still use these types of calendars.
The Julian Calendar, put into effect by Julius Caesar, added too many leap days so a switch was made to the Gregorian Calendar, which was invented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.
Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain adopted it in 1582 and, in doing so, dropped 10 days in October that year.
Great Britain and America adopted the Gregorian Calendar in September 1752, thereby eliminating 11 days.
Sweden had a “double” leap year in 1712 by adding two days to February – someone forgot to recognize 1704 and 1708 as leap years – creating Feb. 30 as a date.
The Swedes eventually took care of that in 1753 by dropping 10 days out of February, going directly from Feb. 17 to March 1.
Apparently, because of that some people believed that they were losing 10 days from their lives and would therefore die sooner.
Leave it to the Irish to start a leap year tradition that is traced back to 500 A.D. and continues today.
The tradition’s origin stems from an old Irish tale referring to St. Bridgid of Kildare complaining to St. Patrick about why women had to wait so long for a man to propose.
St. Patrick replied that females could propose on leap day every four years.
Some people extend this proposal time to include the entire leap year.
Supposedly, a law by Queen Margaret of Scotland required that a man would have to pay a fine if he said no to the proposal – compensation was said to range from a kiss to a cash payment, all to soften the blow.
This may have started a lesser-known rule that a proposing woman was expected to wear a red petticoat so a man would have some warning about the impending proposal.
In Denmark, the tradition is that women may propose on leap day and that refusal must be compensated with 12 pairs of gloves – it’s been suggested that is so she can cover up the ring finger so no one could see that she doesn’t have a wedding ring.
In Finland, the tradition is that if a man refuses a woman’s proposal on leap day, he should buy her fabric to make a skirt.
It was also considered to be unlucky for someone to be born on a leap day in Scotland and for couples to marry during a leap year, including on a leap day, in Greece.
A leap day is more likely to be on Mondays or Wednesdays as the Gregorian calendar repeats itself every 400 years so Feb. 29 can be on Monday or Wednesday 15 times, on Friday or Saturday 14 times and on Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday 13 times.
Statistics show that 25 per cent of babies are born in a leap year and the odds of being a leap day baby is 1 in 1,461.
People born on a Leap Day are called “leaplings.”
No name has been suggested for people married on leap day, but some people only celebrate their leap day birthday or marriage every four years.
Local writer Char Toews, who married her hubby on leap day 24 years ago, says they celebrate a wedding anniversary every four years, but says she did not propose to her husband. This year, they will be celebrating their official sixth anniversary, possibly with her idea of an all-day dance party.