Welcome February and as you all know, 2020 is a leap year so we are getting an extra day – February 29.
February 29, also called the Leap Day comes every four years to make sure that the Gregorian calendar remains in synch with the seasonal year. The Earth takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds to revolve around the sun but the Gregorian calendar only has 365 days. This means that our calendar is off by almost 6 hours every year or 24 days after a century.
Leap year was introduced as a corrective measure during the time of Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. However, adding a day every four years results in about 3 extra days every 400 years. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII further refined the calendar to counter the extra days with the rule that only one out of every four century years is considered as a leap year. That’s why 1600 and 2000 were leap years but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not.
Why is it called the leap year?
The name “leap year” is attributed to the fact that during leap years, a date in the Gregorian calendar advances two days instead of one day. For example, Christmas Day (December 25) fell on a Tuesday in 2018, Wednesday in 2019 but, because of the extra day, it will leap to Friday in 2020.
Leap day birthdays
People born on February 29 are called “leapling” or “leaper”. On a common year, they are legally considered to change age either on February 28 or March 1, depending on their local laws. For example, the US and New Zealand follows February 28 while Hong Kong and the UK use March 1.
Leap year traditions
Unless it’s your birthday, leap day may not mean much to you. But in case you are wondering what to do with the extra day, an old Irish tradition might offer an inspiration.
According to the tradition, women can propose to their boyfriends during a leap year. This tradition is believed to be initiated by St Brigid of Kildare where she made a case to St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men on Leap Day, changing the custom that only men can propose marriage. The tradition is believed to have been taken by Irish monks to Scotland.
Here’s the catch, the man who is proposed to must accept the proposal, otherwise, he should compensate the woman for the shame of being rejected. A 1288 law by Queen Margaret of Scotland allegedly set the fines to be a pair of leather gloves, a single rose, £1 and a kiss. In Finland, the man is supposed to buy the woman fabric for a skirt. According to Irish Central, for upper-class societies, the fine is buying the woman 12 pairs of gloves so she can hide the fact that she did not get a ring.
Today, women do not need the law or tradition to give them the power to propose. But if you’re feeling traditional and want to make the extra day extra special, you might want to invoke the spirit of this tradition. However, make sure you schedule the wedding after the leap year, as Greek tradition says it is unlucky to get married on a leap year.
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