What is Leap Year, Leap Day? Why do we have them?
Prior to the establishment of the Julian Calendar in 45 B.C., there were no Leap Days or Leap Years. When Julius Caesar implemented the current calendar, he added ten days to the 355-day year in the Roman Calendar. He also changed the date of New Year’s Day from March 1 to January 1 and added a leap day every four years.
The Roman Calendar embraced a ten-month, 355-day year based on the lunar cycle. Each month had three phases: Kalends, or the ‘new moon’ coincided with the first of the month; Nones, defined by the first quarter-moon occurred on the fifth or seventh day of the month; Ides, the first full moon designated either the 13th or the 15th day of the month. Then, with the next Kalends, a new month began.
New Year’s Day in the Roman Calendar occurred on March 1 instead of the Julian Calendar’s January 1. The New Year’s Day Celebration, however, occurred on March 15th (during the first full moon) instead of March 1st (the actual New Year’s beginning day). The full moon probably made partying more enjoyable by increasing visibility. Celebrations included food, music and other festivities.
Then came the Gregorian Calendar with skipped days and relived days to really confuse things. First introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII — for whom it is named. According to http://www.timeanddate.com, it is the most widely used Calendar around the world. Catholic countries adopted the calendar quickly with Spain, Portugal and Italy Leading the Group. It has been adopted by the international standard for Representation of date and times, (Hocken, 2017).
Protestant countries were leery of adopting the new calendar, fearing it to be a way of silencing the Protestant movement. Two hundred years after it was introduced, an Act of Parliament declared it to be the new Calendar for England and the (then) colonies, and the date immediately changed from September 2 to September 14, 1752, (Hocken, 2017).
Hocken on http://www.timeanddate.com quotes Benjamin Franklin, who “famously wrote about the switch in his almanac. ‘ . . . And what an indulgence is here, for those who love their pillow to lie down in Peace on the second of this month and not perhaps awake till the morning of the fourteenth.'” (Quoted by timeanddate.com from Cowan, 29; Irwin, 98).
“Orthodox countries followed the Julian calendar even longer, and their national churches have still not adopted Pope Gregory XIII’s calendar,” (Hoken, 2017).
Leap Year and Leap Day come with heaps of folk-lore attached. Leap Year, commonly known as an open opportunity for the woman to propose marriage to her love, does not encourage marriage that same year. It is supposedly unlucky for couples to marry during Leap Year.
Tell me what YOU think!
Hocken, Vigdis. (14 November 2017). “Leap Day Customs & Traditions.” Time and Date AS. (28 February 2020). https://www.timeanddate.com/date/leap-day-february-29,html.
Hocken, Vigdis. (14 November 2017). “The Gregorian Calendar.” Time and Date AS. (28 February 2020). https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/gregorian-calendar.html.