Learning about leap years


In case you haven’t checked a calendar this morning, today is February 29th. While looking at my own calendar this morning, I realised that I didn’t actually know why we have a leap day. Anticipating the questions I’m bound to face from my inquisitive children later today I thought I ought to remedy that, and quickly. So where I else would I look for information but Discover@Bolton. It hasn’t disappointed. For a change, I filtered my search by newspaper articles and the article at the top of my list was a short piece from a local Canadian newspaper.

A quick read later, and I now know that the first documentation of the practice of adding an extra day to the year to bring the calendar in synch with the solar appeared in 1288 when Scotland passed a law to allow women to propose marriage to men on that day (and any man refusing the proposal to be fined!). The notion of women proposing to men on February 29th is thought to date back to 5th Century Ireland, when St Patrick agreed that “yearning females tired of waiting” could take matters into their own hands…

It’s thought that the practice of adding the extra day dates back to Ancient Egypt; it was also adopted by the Romans who first designated February 29th as an extra day in 45 B.C.

Amazing what a quick five minutes on a database can reveal! I can get on with my day now…


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