Are You A Leaper or A Leaping?

Are You a “Leapling”?

When the early Egyptians adopted the Sumerian calendar, dividing the year into 12 months of 30 days, the calendar was actually 5 days shorter than the Earth’s journey around the Sun. When they realized this error, the Egyptians simply decided to place those five “non-conforming” days at year’s end and use those days “to party”, leaving the solution of correcting the calendar to later generations! And so, the story begins …

The solar year was not 365 days as the Sumerian’s and Egyptians believed but 365.242190 days – the actual time for Earth to orbit the Sun. By the time Julius Ceasar decided to tackle to problem in 45 B.C., all those 365 day/years had placed the seasons “out of whack”! To correct the problem, Caesar decreed that the year 46 B.C. was going to be 445 days long (2 extra months) in lieu of 365. He then made a 365.25 day/year that added a leap day every fourth year in February.

I am certain that the engineers reading this article have already concluded that the math does not work. The small difference between 365.25 and 365.242190 made each calendar year about 11 minutes shorter than the seasonal calendar. By the 16th century, the calendar had drifted 10 days.

Thus, in 1582, Pope Gregory tackled the problem by dropping 10 days from the month of October and developed a new leap year system based upon the correct solar year of 365.242190 days. However, the Gregorian calendar is not perfect – there is a 30 second drift every year that needs to be corrected in 3,300 years – somewhere around the year 5324. (Mark it on your calendar!)

But “leap year” does have its superstitions and fun facts:

  • Many cultures consider February 29th unlucky: In Italy, “Anno bisesto, anno funesto” – Leap year, doom year”. And in Greece, getting married in a leap year is considered bad luck – Greek marriages are down 20% in a leap year.
  • Tradition has it that it is ok and proper for a woman to propose marriage to a man on February 29th.
    • According to the BBC, “the custom has been attributed to various historical figures including St. Bridget, who is said to have complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitor to pop the question. The obliging Patrick supposedly gave women one day to propose.
    • Another tale claims that in 1288 Queen Margaret of Scotland enacted a law allowing women to propose to men on a leap year as long as they wore a red petticoat, setting fines for men who turned down the marriage proposal.
    • Finland and Denmark – many say to this day – have various fines should a man refuse a marriage proposal on February 29!
    • Should you be born on February, you may be called a “leapling” or a “leaper”. There are approximately 4.1 million such individuals living today including actor Dennis Farina, the famous jazz musician Jimmy Dorsey and motivational speaker Tony Robbins.

One thing is certain: There are 1,440 extra minutes in a leap year and in 8 days, on Thursday February 29th, you have those extra minutes to spend with people you care about and love. From all of us at Dixie, enjoy those extra minutes with your families and friends.

To learn more about who Dixie is, visit our About page.