Pop Culture

Feb 29 – Leap Year

Oddly enough this extra day in the year has been one of my busiest days. I feel like having an extra day should help the workload for the year, but that doesn’t really seem to be happening for me. Also anyone working today who is on salary or annual income – you’re working for free today! Why do we have leap years? What kind of neat things go on on this extra day?

Most of the world runs on the Gregorian calendar. Every four years an extra day is tagged onto February giving us today’s date. Adding the extra day is to make up for the fact that a 365 day year is shorter than the solar year by around 6 hours. Over 2 millennia there will be 485 leap years making the average year 365.2425 days long which is slightly shorter than the vernal equinox which is 365.242374 days long (and grows longer). Because of this difference in 8000 years the Gregorian calendar will technically be 1 day behind. Other cultures, such as the Chinese, Hebrew calendar all add an entire extra month, which is called an embolismic month.


Fun Facts and Traditions

The most well known tradition about the Leap Year is that it is the only day a woman can propose marriage to a man. In this vein – in Norway, in 1288, a law was passed that if a man refuses the marriage he must pay with a leather glove, a rose, £1 and a kiss. Similarly in Denmark, if the man refuses he must pay with 12 pairs of gloves…and in Finland he must give fabrics for a skirt. In Greece it is considered unlucky to get married during a leap year and thus 1 in 5 couples avoid getting married during a leap year.

February 29th is also Rare Disease Day (recognized by 56 countries), developed to raise international awareness of uncommon diseases. It is also a day when frog legs are given at a discounted price. Apparently the official “leap year” drink is  “2 ounces gin, ½ ounce Grand Marnier, ½ ounce sweet vermouth, and ¼ ounce fresh lemon juice. The parts are stirred together and strained into a chilled cocktail glass.”


Karin Heriken of Norwary holds the record for the most consecutive births on leap years by giving birth to three children in the years 1960, 1964 and 1968. The Keogh family in the United Kingdom hold the record for the most generations born on leap days. The father was born on the leap day of 1940, his son was boring on the leap day in 1964 and his grandaughter was born on the leap day in 1996. There approximately 5 million people born on leap day around the world. Some famous Leap Day birthdays are Ja Rule (1976), Dinah Shore (1916) and Gioacchino Rossini (1792)

Have a happy leap day!

Check out the World Wild Life Fun leaping lizard page!


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Katie is a graduate student from Canada studying the environment and systems theory. She also loves dinosaurs and baking cupcakes. Follow her on twitter @katiekish

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