Friday, 26 February 2016

Leap Year Facts - 29th February

Leap Days - they come around once every 4 years, and are an extra day to our otherwise super-short month of February. So what makes this day so special? We went on a mission, to find out the peculiarities of this day...

  1. The leap year's extra day came about due to the "messiness" of our Solar System. As we all learnt in school, one Earth Year (a complete orbit around the Sun), does not take an exact number of days (one complete spin of the Earth on its axis). In fact, it takes 365.2422, give or take. So that extra (almost) quarter of day adds up over the 4 years, to make up that special Leap Day. 
  2. Why is it the 29th February that is the leap year day? Why not the 31st February? It's all down to the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Under Julius Caeasar, February had 30 days, but when Caesar Augustus was emperor he was annoyed that his month - August - had only 29 days, whereas the month named after his predecessor Julius - July - had 31. So he moved the days around, so August had 31 days.
  3. Why is it traditional for women to propose on a leap year day? Leap year days were not recognised by English law, and so if the day no legal status, it was acceptable to break with the convenation of a man proposing. A popular story surrounding this tradition of a woman proposing is that Queen Margaret of Scotland brought in a law setting fines for men who turned down marriage proposals put by women on a leap year. However, it is worth noting that Margaret was five years old a the time, and living in Norway. The tradition nevertheless became common place from the 19th Century. 
  4. There are varying traditions around the world concerning women and proposing. In Denmark, if a man refuses to marry they must give the woman 12 pairs of gloves. In Finland, they must give a piece of fabric for a skit. In Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky, so many couples avoid it. 
  5. There is a 1-in-1461 change of being born on a leap day.
  6. When do people with leapday birthdays celebrate it on non-leap years? The answer to this depends on the country you are in. In most US states, the UK and Hong Kong, people with 29th February birthdays don't hit legal milestones (drinking age, smoking age, driving age, etc) until March 1st. In places like China, Taiwan and New Zealand, February 28th is the legal birthday. In Italy, the legend is that women are erratic during a leap year, and several proverbs warn against planning important life events in a leap year. For example, "anno bisesto, anno funesto" means "leap year, doom year".
  7. In Russia it is believed a leap year is likely to bring more freak weather patterns, and a great risk of death all round. Farming folklore says beans and peas planted in a leap year "grow the wrong way".
  8. Scottish farmers also believe leap years are not good for crops or livestock, thanks to the old proverb: "Leap year was ne'er a good sheep year".
  9. Leap day doesn't hold up in court. Prisoners who have one-year sentences have to serve the extra day if their year crosses leap day. A man who had a certain number of days to file papers claimed February 29th shouldn't as a day against him. A woman tried claimed she was entitled to her husband's Social Security benefits becasue even though they got divorced just days before their 10th anniversary, counting their leap days as extra would push them over 10 years. In all cases, these moves failed.
  10. Workers paid fixed annual or monthly salaries essentially work for free on 29th February as wages are not usually calculated to account for an extra day. 
    And we'll leave you with this thought...

What are your favourite leap year day facts?  Let us know @office_fruit

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