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Leap Year – The Four-Year Phenomenon – Lesson

February is the shortest month – but why is it a day longer every four years?

February is always a unique month as it is the only month with just 28 days. However, the second month gets even more special every four years, when it becomes a leap year. Due to the rate at which the Earth travels around the sun (365 ¼ days), an extra day was added to every fourth year, making 29 total days in February. Some say leap years are lucky, so if that is true, 2024 may be your year of luck!

The Origination of Leap Year

The leap year traces back to the Julian Calendar – created by Julius Caesar – used in 45 BCE. The Romans wanted to hold celebrations and festivals around the same time every year. However, their 355-day calendar cycle did not accommodate those wishes. Caeser and astronomers made changes and adjustments to the calendar to rectify the problem. The newly created time-keeping schedule was near perfect but fell slightly short of absolute precision.

GettyImages-933483958 (1) Pope Gregory XIII

Pope Gregory XIII (GettyImages)

It wasn’t until the 16th century, when Pope Gregory XIII came up with the Gregorian calendar we use today, that the dilemma was resolved. Liberty Nation covered the mathematical breakdown of how leap years work.

“It works like this: Every four years, we add an extra day on February 29, but the solar year runs 0.03 days slower. Every century, this error accumulates to 0.75 days, and we then skip a leap year to let the sun catch up with our calendar. This leaves a remainder of 0.25 days, which amounts to a full day in 400 years. To summarize: Every four years, we add an extra day, except for whole century years (e.g., 1800, 1900) when we don’t add a day, except every fourth century (e.g., 1600, 2000, 2400) when we do add a day.”

Are Leap Years Lucky?

Luck is subjective, meaning it can change from person to person, and it has a lot to do with superstitions, cultures, and personal beliefs, so it is challenging to label leap year as lucky or unlucky. In places like Greece and Italy, the unique year, and February 29 in particular, has proven quite unfortunate.

Even though Americans view February as the month of love due to Valentine’s Day, in Greece, marriages held on the “extra” day in February are believed to be destined to end in divorce. Many couples will hold out on reciting their vows until after a leap year has passed. Italians will wait until after the leap year to buy homes, cars, and other expensive items to bypass the potential bad luck.

On the other hand, some feel it is good luck. An extra day could mean a higher income month. It can also mean a free day of living as mortgage payers and renters have an extra day before the bill is due.

English tradition says that February 29 is the only acceptable day for a woman to ask for a man’s hand in marriage – though in the modern world, a woman asking a man to marry her isn’t seen nearly as negatively as it was in the past.

More Interesting Facts About Leap Years

  • People born on a leap year are called ‘leapers’ or ‘leapings.’
  • Approximately 4 million people have been born on February 29.
  • Ja Rule, the famous rapper, was born on a leap day.
  • The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies is a club for people born on a leap day.
  • Twin Cities, Anthony, Texas, and Anthony, New Mexico, hold a four-day celebration in honor of the leap year.

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