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History of the Leap Day

You know the old saying, 30 days has September, April, June, and November, all the rest have 31, except for February with only 28 days with 29 days on the leap year. Why not all 30 days?

Well, it is said that under Julius Caesar, February did have 30 days, but when Caesar Augustus became emperor he was a little upset that his birth month, August only had 29 days, and Julius’s birth month, July had 31 days. Not be be out done by his predecessor, he moved some days around on the calendar. August got 31 days and February got the short end of the straw.

Now getting back to how Leap year came to be. When Julius Caesar came to power the calendar year was 355 days long with an extra 22 day month added every 2 years. Talk about confusing. Anyway, Caesar wanted to simplify things so with the advice from the astronomers he opted for 365 day year. Since it takes 365.2422 days to make 1 full year, every 4 years a day is added to get back to the calendar to get back on track. February was the winner! Yeah February! Of course it was a little more involved then that, Pope Gregory XIII, Mathematician’s and astronomer’s all helped work out the details.

Back in the day, English law did not recognize February 29th, so it was said this was the day it was acceptable for women to break the rules and propose to a man. During the middle ages, if a man refused a women’s leap day marriage proposal, by law he had to buy her 12 pair of gloves so she could hide her ringless finger. Other traditions called the 29th “Bachelors Day” and if a man refused a women proposal he was expected to pay a penalty of money or buy her clothing.

People born on February 29th are referred to as leaplings, and have the choice of when to celebrate their birthdays on the common years, both February 28th or March 1st are acceptable.

Growing up, I always heard Leap day referred to as Sadie Hawkins day. A day recognized for simple role-reversal on courtship. Single women could take the lead and ask a fellow out on a date, almost unheard before the 1940’s. My, my have things changed.

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