Facts: Know more about leap year
Some fun facts about leap year
The month of February in 2020 has 29 days. While the reason behind the extra day, called a leap day, is purely astronomical, there are many interesting traditions, facts and beliefs associated with February 29.
- One solar year is 365 and a quarter days long (around 365.242 days). Every four years, an extra day is added to the calendar to compensate for those missing quarters of a day. Since a solar year is 0.242 days longer than the calendar year, and not exactly 0.25, the Julian calendar drifted off by one day every 128 years. Gregorian calendar fixed this problem by establishing a model which considered every fourth year a leap year. During the reign of Julius Caesar, the month of February had 30 days. But when Caesar Augustus came to power, he wanted August (the month named after him) which had 29 days then, to have 31 days. So, he swept a few days from February to make the number of days in August similar to that of July. Since then, February has had 28 days with February 29 as the leap day.
- A baby born on a leap day is called a ‘leapling’ or a ‘leaper.’ The probability of being born on a leap day is one in 1,461, as four years have 1,460 days with one extra day added in the leap year, bringing the total to 1,461.
- During his final trip to the West Indies, explorer Christopher Columbus used the lunar eclipse of February 29, 1504, to his advantage. After being stranded in Jamaica for months and with the indigenous population refusing to provide any further assistance, Columbus gathered the native chiefs on February 29. Aware that a lunar eclipse was due, he told them God will punish them by painting the moon red and the only way God can withdraw the punishment is if they all would cooperate again. Soon, the panicked chiefs agreed and heaved a sigh of relief when the moon emerged from its shadow.
- In Denmark, the day in leap year when a woman can propose to her man is Feb. 24, a tradition that goes back to the time of Julius Caesar. If a Danish man refuses a woman’s proposal on that day, he must give her 12 pairs of gloves. In Finland, men have to give fabric for skirts.
- In a few European countries such as Greece, leap years are considered to bring bad luck and people are advised to avoid certain ceremonies and activities like weddings.
- The civil code in China since Oct. 10, 1929, takes the legal birthday of a leapling to be February 28. In Hong Kong, since 1990, March 1 is considered the legal birthday of someone born on a leap day.
- In 2008, February 29 marked the first Rare Disease Day, which aims at raising awareness about rare diseases. Also known as orphan diseases, these are disorders that affect a small percentage of the population. Since 2008, the day is observed every year on the last day of February.