Wednesday, February 29, 2012

february 29

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when my colleague asked why a leap year was called a leap year  that I found myself wondering about the origin of February 29.  After a bit of research (thank you Google) I discovered leap years were first introduced by Julius Caesar more than 2000 years ago but were adapted with the introduced of the Gregorian calendar in 1582.  The extra day is added to the calendar in leap years as a corrective measure because the earth does not orbit around the sun in precisely 365 days.  It compensates for the fact that a solar year is almost six hours longer than a normal calendar year.  If we didn’t have leap years, our calendar would be off by about 24 days after 100 years.

The Chinese, Hebrew, Hindu and Iranian calendars also account for the extra time the earth takes to rotate around the sun but not in the same way the Gregorian calendar does.  For example, in the Hebrew calendar a 13th lunar month is added seven times every 19 years to the 12 lunar months in its normal years to keep its calendar year from drifting through the seasons too rapidly.
February 29 is also the day attached men quake in their boots waiting to see if their fairer half will turn the tables and propose. According to traditional folklore any man who refuses a proposal owes his lady a silk gown and a kiss.  Hardly compensation by today’s standards if you ask me.

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