13 Things to Know About Leap Year

Artwork from Picryl

This year is Leap Year. Leap years happen every four years, as long as the year is divisible by four. The calculations are actually a bit more complicated, but basically every four years we get an extra day in February. It’s a “cheat” to keep our Gregorian calendar on track. 

According to britannica.com, “In 46 BCE, the Julian calendar introduced a leap day every four years, but a problem with the measurement that was used led to a mounting discrepancy over the course of several centuries. The Gregorian calendar reformed the concept in 1582 by eliminating leap years in century years that weren’t exactly divisible by 400. 

People have always been superstitious, and adding that extra day in February has brought about all kinds of customs, traditions, odd beliefs and interesting occurrences. Here are 13 things most people don’t know about Leap Year. 

  1. Before our modern world with a more liberal point of view about marriage, women were only allowed to ask men to marry them on Leap Day. “This custom dates back to an old Irish legend that finds [fifth] century St. Brigid of Kildare imploring St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men to keep things in balance…St. Patrick decreed that this should be allowed on the last day of the shortest month every four years, and the tradition of women proposing to men on Leap Day – or in Leap Years – was born,” according to pacificcollege.edu.
  1. When the tradition of women asking men to marry them came to Scotland, Queen Margaret decreed a fine on men who refused the women who asked them. The man had to kiss the woman he said no to, or gift her with a silk dress or a dozen pairs of leather gloves to hide her ring-less hand.
  1. On salon.com it says, “In February 1988, the town of Anthony, Texas, declared itself “leap year capital of the world” thanks to Mary Ann Brown and Birdie Lewis. Brown and Lewis, who were both born on Leap Day, proposed a festival to celebrate the unique day. The four-day-long shindig remains a popular attraction today, with folks from all over the world traveling to Texas to enjoy live music, good food and endless fun.
  1. In one part of Italy, the people believe that whales only give birth in a leap year.
  1. During leap years, January, April and July start on the same day. This year it is a Monday.
  1. There is a drink called “The Leap Year Cocktail.” It is made with gin, sweet vermouth, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice.
  1. The first three arrest warrants in Salem, Massachusetts that brought about the witchcraft trials were issued on February 29, 1692. The warrants were for Tituba, Sarah Goode and Sarah Osborne.
  1. Those born on February 29 are known as “Leaplings.” There are about 4 million of them around the world.
  1. Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress for her role in “Gone with the Wind” on the date in 1940, making her the first African American woman to win an Oscar.
  1. February 29 is considered bad luck in Italy. The origins of the belief come from ancient Roman times. Back then, February was associated with the dead, and extending the month by one day only prolonged an already morbid month.
  1. It is believed in China that any project begun on February 29 will be successful.
  1. Leap Day simply does not exist for some businesses.
  1. In some cultures, there is no February 29, instead February 24 occurs twice.

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