Leap Day: This is What Makes Today, 29th February, Special


Happy Leap Day to esteemed readers of Buzz Nigeria. Today, the 29th day of February, is special: It can only occur once every four years and is responsible for 2016 being tagged “Leap Year.”  A leap year happens once in fours years when an extra day is added to the end of February to synchronize with the solar system’s disparity with the Gregorian calendar.

It takes the earth 365.2422 days to completely go around the sun, but the Gregorian calendar uses 365 days. So leap seconds and intercalary years are added as means of keeping our clocks (and calendars) in sync with the Earth and its seasons. However, all the other months in the Julian calendar have 30 or 31 days, but February lost out to the ego of Roman Emperor Julius Caesar Augustus. Under his predecessor Caesar, February had 30 days and the month named after him – July – had 31. August had only 29 days but unfortunately, power changed hands between these two months and February took the leap day.

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Due to the seasons and the astronomic events that do not repeat in a whole number of days, calendars that have the same number of days in every year scud over time with respect to the event that the year is alleged to track. By inserting (also called intercalating) an extra day or month into the year, the scud can be corrected. However, a year that is not a leap year is called a common year.

For some reasons, frogs are associated with leap years, because of its ability to leap. Leap years are also marked as a time for women to propose to men. This custom dates back to the 5th Century when an Irish nun called St Bridget complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose.

St Patrick then supposedly gave women the chance to ask the question every four years. The tradition did not gain popularity until the 19th Century. The law allowed unmarried women the freedom to propose during a leap year, and the man who refused was handed a fine. The truth behind this tale is dubious at best – after all Queen Margaret was just eight years old when she died and scholars have been unable to find a record of the law.

Unfortunately, the chances of having a leap birthday are one in 1,461. People who are born on February 29 are referred to as “leaplings”, or “leapers”. In non-leap years, many leaplings choose to celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1, while some stick to February 29 for the occasion. Some suggest those born before midday on February 29 should celebrate their birthdays on February 28, while those born in the afternoon and evening of the 28th should celebrate their special day on March 1 (St David’s Day).

Those born around midday are less fortunate when it comes to picking a side. About 4.1 million people around the world have been born on the 29th. Pisces is the zodiac sign of a person born on February 29, and amethyst is the birthstone for this month. The chances of having a birthday on a leap day are extremely slim – the odds are one in 1,461 to be exact – and there’s quite an eclectic mix of famous people born on the day.  Pope Paul III,  Ja Rule the rapper, and English footballer, Darren Ambrose among other great heroes were born on a leap day, and are as special as the day.

In  nut shell, 29th February is indeed a special day and should be made a world-wide holiday. Workers in the UK and US have paraded a campaign to make February 29 a work-free day, because they have come to the realization that every leap year, they have to work one extra day for no extra pay. So in your opinion? Should 29th February be made a public holiday.

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