February 29, Four Years In The Making

“Today is an ephemeral ghost…. A strange amazing day that comes only once every four years. For the rest of the time it does not “exist”…. Use this day to do something daring, extraordinary and unlike yourself….”–Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 8.03.45 PMIt’s February 29, Leap Day, a day so rare that it comes only once ever four years. In fact, if you were born on this day in 1932, you have only seen 21 actual birthdays.

What is leap year? For most of us born on or after March 1, we see Leap Day as an extra 24-hours to remain our current age or we’re just charmed by its rarity; however, leap year is an important construct.

Leap year’s existence dates back to 46 B.C.E. during the reign of Julius Caesar; his calendar reflected a 365 and a quarter day year. Over several centuries, this resulted in spring starting much earlier.

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII sought to correct the error of the Julian calendar by devising a more accurate measurement of time. His calendar, known as the Gregorian calendar, shifted the timetable by calculating a year as 365.2425 days, so spring would start on March 21, instead of March 11.

Pope Gregory’s calendar is extremely accurate, it is off only by one day every 3200 years, and is still in use today. In about 10,000 years Gregory’s calendar will need to be corrected for its built in errors.

Most people don’t understand, nor care to, the arithmetic behind the extra day. Nonetheless, it is quite interesting. In a 400-year period, Leap Day happens only 97 times. The algorithm surrounding leap year is intriguing.

A leap year can only occur in a calendar year that can be equally divided by four, except for century years that can be divided evenly by 100, but not 400. Those years will skip a Leap Day. For example, 2000 had a leap year, while 1700, 1800, and 1900 skipped leap year completely.

The next few centuries will skip Leap Day too. People living during 2100, 2200, and 2300 will see an eight-year separation between leap years and having a February 29.

Notwithstanding the math, leap year has always held a sense of wonder for people. In many cases, Leap Day is approached with levity. People born on February 29 joke about being younger than they are due to actual number of birthdays, while comedians or authors will lament humorous anecdotes about leap year.

Jarod Kintz jokes, “Every leap year I like to jump. It’s a good way to get my daily exercise in every four years.” There is also a fun tradition that February 29 is the day for women to ask their men to marry them, instead of waiting to be proposed to.

Not to be outdone, and to capitalize on an easy leap year marketing ploy, Disney ran a 2012 ad campaign titled “One More Disney Day,” where its two theme parks stayed open for 24-hours.

All lightheartedness aside, Leap Day is special. It keeps our seasons intact and allows our calendar to stay inline with Earth’s movement around the Sun. Those reasons alone we should celebrate its observation.

A Crow’s View encourages people everywhere to take a moment to enjoy this year’s extra day. Do something special to mark its passing; after all, we may only see 20 or 25 of them during our life times.

11-Random Facts About Leap Day

Leap Year Rules

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