Undoubtedly, you have been inundated with Leap Year and Leap Day information today. Today is February 29th, which means it IS Leap Day. As a youngster, you probably heard horror stories of children being born on February 29th and only having a birthday every four years.
But what does it all actually mean? Why do we have Leap Years?
We are taught that a year is 365 days because it takes the Earth 365 days to revolve around the sun. But that actually isn’t true; our precious planet takes 365 1/4 days to revolve around the sun. This adds up to an extra day every four years. So we tack on February 29th every four years to keep us coordinated with the sun’s position.
Why do this? By not adding little February 29th every four years, things would shift and our seasons would seem off to us; eventually our spring holidays would be occurring in the fall (pumpkin pie for Easter, anyone?).
However, this calculation isn’t exactly spot on (naturally). We’re about eleven minutes off on this calculation, which means that every 128 years would include a massive discrepancy. In order to alleviate this travesty, in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII decreed that Leap Year would be skipped three times every four centuries. In other words, an end-of-century year is not a leap year unless it is also exactly divisible by 400. You should have paid more attention to your maths, eh?
But why February 29th, you ask? Why not June 31st? October 32nd? I could winge on about Terminalia and the Kalends‘ but instead I will tell you this: when the Roman system of numbering days was replaced by sequential numbering during the late Middle Ages, February 29 became Leap Day.
Does your head feel a wee bit swimmy? Watch this delightful video from a fun little website called geeksaresexy.net:
I suggest waiting about an hour before exercising after all this knowledge. Safety first, m’dears. Safety first.