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Leap Years

Feb 22, 2012 05:49PM ● By Anonymous

We all learned in middle school science classes that it takes the earth about 365 days to revolve around the sun. Unfortunately for the Gregorian calendar, rough is the operative word. The actual number is closer to 365.242199. (Simple, right?)

But since the Gregorian calendar only accounts for those 365 days, we need to add an extra day (February 29th) every four years. If we didn't, we'd lose about six hours off of our calendar every year. That might not sound like much, but after 100 years, it'd be off by roughly 24 days. Crazy.

So, how do we pick leap years? For starters, the year has to be divisible by four. And it can't be divisible by 100 unless it's also divisible by 400. Slightly confusing, but if you think about it for a while, it sinks in.

Now, given that leap days are strange unto thesmelves, it's not surprising that they come with a few superstitions and traditions.

In the British Isles, February 29th boasts the accomplishment of being the day on which women propose to men. While this is supposed to date back to a deal struck between St. Bridgid of Kildare and St. Patrick, it seems to actually have started around the 19th-century.

Oddly enough, though, a Scottish tradition states that it's bad luck for couples to be married during a leap year, and even worse on a leap day.

If, however, you happen to be born on a leap day, you're invited to join The Honor Society of Leap Day Babies. With a website created in 1997, the club now has almost 10,000 members. I suspect that number will rise soon.

Although a lot of "leap year babies" or "leaplings" observe their birthdays only on their authentic dates, some opt for an easier route and hold their parties on February 28th or March 1st. Legally, their birthdays depend on how countries and states count time intervals. After poking around on the internet for a while, it seems like most states consider March 1st to be the official day. (Try taking that one up with a leapling, though.)

To find out more about leap years and days, check out the following websites: