9 Fun Cultural (or Otherwise) Facts About The “Extra Day”
Today is Leap Day, the “extra” day added to February every four years during the Leap Year. For those of you who are unclear why we have Leap Year, I’ll sum up.
A leap year consists of 366 days, as opposed to a common year, which has 365 days. Ancient Egyptians determined that the solar calendar and the man-made calendar did not match up exactly. It is common knowledge that the Earth takes 365 days to travel around the sun, but the Egyptians were the first to calculate that the exact time is closer to 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, to be exact. So to make up for the extra accumulated time, Julius Caesar officially added the year into Roman calendars 2,000 years ago.
So now we know the reason why we have Leap Year, let’s delve into some interesting facts about what the day means to different cultures.
1. Inverse Proposal
One leap day tradition, which began in Ireland but has spread to many countries in Europe, is called “women’s privilege.” It is rumored that the tradition started with St. Bridget (then just known as Brigid) complaining to St. Patrick that it was unfair that women had to wait for men to propose, and so St. Patrick declared that every February 29 “impatient” women had the opportunity to ask men to marry them.
About 700 years after “women’s privelege” began, in 1288, a five-year-old Queen Margaret supposedly created a law that required any man who refused a leap day proposal to pay fines ranging from a kiss, to one English pound, to a silk gown. Thus giving unseemly women one day to rake in a new wardrobe!
3. Marriage?! Hmm, Let’s Wait Until Next Year, Honey…
In Greece, it is believed that it is bad luck to marry during a leap year. This superstition is so widely believed, in fact, that approximately one in five engaged couples in Greece will avoid planning their wedding during a leap year.
4. Leaplings: Who Are They Really?
What happens to those people who are born on Leap Day? No, they do not age slower than everyone else. They instead choose to celebrate their birthdays on either February 28 or March 1 on a non-Leap Year, and are commonly referred to as “leaplings.” Because of their more rare birthday (chances of having a leap year birthday are 1 in 1,461), special characteristics are applied to people born on Leap Day. In some cultures, leaplings are thought to have unusual or special talents, with personalities reflecting their status. However, in other cultures such as China, they believe that leaplings are difficult to raise and are considered unlucky.
5. It’s Just a Matter of Time
Although Leap Year is just a way of aligning our measurement of time with nature, Scottish farmers once believed that messing around with the calendar threw the natural rhythms of the earth out of whack, and even messed up the raising of crops and livestock. It was said that beans and peas planted during a leap year would “grow the wrong way.” A popular Scottish phrase? “Leap year was never a good sheep year.”
6. Everything is Bigger in Texas, Especially Leap Year
Anthony, Texas, in the United States, is known as the “Leap Capital of the World”. Every leap year, this tiny town hosts the Worldwide Leap Year Festival. Since 1988, Anthony throws birthday festivals every leap year for people born on February 29. People throughout the USA and overseas travel to this tiny town to take part in parades, birthday dinners, and hot air balloon lifts. Participants range from babies celebrating their first birthday to people in their 90s celebrating another leap day birthday. In 1992 a man registered his 104-year-old mother, born on a leap day, for the festival.
7. Every 4 Years? Why so Often?
The Iranian calendar dates back to the 11th century, when a panel of scientists created a calendar that was more accurate than other calendars at the time. Although some changes have been made to the calendar, it is slightly more accurate than the Gregorian calendar. Compared with the Gregorian calendar, which errors by one day in about every 3226 years, the Iranian calendar needs a one-day correction in about every 141,000 years.
8. One Day? Why so Short?
the Jewish calendar has 13 months in a leap year. There are 29 or 30 days in each month in a Jewish leap year, which has 383, 384, or 385 days. An extra month, Adar I, is added after the month of Shevat and before the month of Adar in a leap year. The month is also known as Adar Rishon or Adar Alef. According to Jewish tradition, Adar is a lucky and happy month. A leap year is referred to in Hebrew as Shanah Me’uberet, or a pregnant year. A Jewish leap year occurs 7 times in a 19-year cycle. The 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th, and 19th years are leap years in this cycle.
9. Leap Day William
Leap Day William dates back many many moons ago…about 6 nights to be exact. For regular watchers of the American sitcom, 30 Rock, they are already familiar with Tina Fey’s made-up tradition from last week’s episode. According to legend, Leap Day William wears yellow and blue and emerges from the Mariana Trench every leap day to trade children’s tears for candy.
However you choose to celebrate (or not) the”extra day” this year, or what traditions you choose to follow, make sure you enjoy it. And if you wear an old fashioned watch, be sure to adjust the date.