Leap Year lore

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Over the weekend we got to experience the extra 24 hours that Leap Year always brings. You might have learned about its existence back in elementary school, but besides knowing that Leap Day comes around every four years, you might not think that much about it. Hopefully you enjoyed your extra day, whether you spent it watching the Amy Adams rom-com “Leap Year” or got in some much-needed rest. While you’re waiting for the next Leap Year to roll around, read on up about it! 



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The creation of the Julian calendar by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C., which added an extra day every four years, is the earliest official reporting of the concept.

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

Typically, the calendar year consists of 365 days, however, it actually takes the sun 365 and a quarter days for the Earth to circle around the sun (or 365.24219 days according to History.com, to be exact). The extra day was added to the end of February every four years to account for the chronological discrepancy.  

The creation of the Julian calendar by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C., which added an extra day every four years, is the earliest official reporting of the concept. However, because the solar year lasts a little less than 365 and a quarter days, the discrepancy had added up to ten days by 1582 A.D., according to an article by CNN. The Gregorian calendar, created by Pope Gregory XIII, attempted to fix that with the rule that “a leap year occurs in every year that is divisible by four, but only in century years that are evenly divided by 400,” as stated by CNN. The Gregorian calendar, which we now currently use, also officially established Feb. 29 as “Leap Day” in leap years. Although the calendar still isn’t as accurate as necessary, since the solar year is currently 26 seconds off of the Gregorian year, it still does the trick.  


Cartoon on theme of women proposing in leap years.  Photo in the    public domain

Cartoon on theme of women proposing in leap years. Photo in the public domain

Since then, Leap Day has been the object of traditions around the world, many of them revolving around love and marriage. One of the most well-known is “Bachelor’s Day,” which “allows” women to propose marriage to men on Leap Day. Legend (or History.com, at least) says that “in 5th-century Ireland, St. Bridget lamented to St. Patrick that women were not allowed to propose marriage to men,” so St. Patrick designated Leap Day to be the one day in which that (outdated) expectation to not apply. The Irish/Scottish custom is taken even further in other European countries that say if a man were to refuse a proposal on Feb. 29, he would have to pay some sort of fine. The debt would often come in the form of a dress, money, or most notably, 12 pairs of gloves. According to Fox News, the gloves were believed to hide the fact that the woman did not have an engagement ring.

However, in Greek and Ukrainian folklore, Leap Day and leap year in general are bad luck for marriages. Superstition decreed that couples married on Feb. 29 or during a leap year were bound for misfortune in their relationship, like divorce or death. As The Telegraph shares, one in five engaged couples in Greece avoid tying the knot during a leap year to avoid the bad luck. 

The lucky people born on Leap Day are called leapers or leaplings, and had a one in 1,461 chance or being born on that day. Only five million people in the world were born on Feb. 29. Imagine how much they make the most out of their special day! 


 Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hollianne.lao@uconn.edu.

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