Randi D. Ward is a retired, 37 year veteran English teacher from Georgia, USA, and a published author. She was named “Entrepreneur of the Year 2014” in the Education Industry by Worldwide Who’s Who and was profiled in its 2015 calendar. Her other awards include being the 2014-15 VIP Woman of the Year by National Association of Professional Women, a 2015 Delegate of the International Leadership Women’s Association, a 2015 Top Female Executive, a 2014 Pinnacle Professional Member of Continental Who’s Who, and an elite member of Strathmore Worldwide Who’s Who. Her current projects in Africa are World Peace Forest (Africa) in Egypt and Africa Nomads Conservation in Kenya. She is an honorary president of World Peace Forest (Africa) and the USA Regional Director for Africa Nomads Conservation. Her book is entitled Because I Believed in Me (My Egyptian Fantasy Came True).
Our earth completes an orbit around our sun in exactly 365.2422 days, but the Gregorian calendar only uses 365 days. Thus, leap seconds and leap years are added to help keep our clocks and calendars in sync with the Earth and our four seasons. As we all know, eleven of our months in the Julian calendar have 30 or 31 days, but February lost out because of the ego of Roman Emperor Caesar Augusta. Under his predecessor Julius Caesar, February had 30 days, and July, the month named for him, had 31. August only had 29 days. When Caesar Augustus became Emperor, he added two days to his month to make August 31 days—the same as July. Therefore, February lost out to August in the battle of the extra days.
Technically, a leap year isn’t every four years. The year 2000 was a leap year, but the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. There’s a leap year every year that is divisible by four, except for years that are both divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400. The added rule about centuries (versus just every four years) was an additional fix to make up for the fact that an extra day every four years is too much of a correction.
The chances of having a leap birthday are one in 1,461. People who are born on February 29 are referred to as “leaplings” or “leapers”. In non-leap years, many leaplings choose to celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1, while purists stick to February 29 for the occasion. Some suggest those born before midday on February 29 should celebrate their birthdays on February 28, while those born in the afternoon and evening of the 28th should celebrate their special day on March 1 (St. David’s Day). About 4.1 million people around the world have been born on the 29th. Pisces is the zodiac sign of a person born on February 29, and amethyst is the birthstone for this month.
Leap years are also marked as a time for women to propose to men. One theory is that the custom dates back to the 5th Century, when the legend has it that an Irish nun called St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose. St. Patrick then supposedly gave women the chance to ask the question every four years. The tradition is not thought to have become commonplace until the 19th Century.
Then there’s the theory that Queen Margaret of Scotland was behind the fabled Scottish law of 1288. The law allowed unmarried women the freedom to propose during a leap year, and the man who refused was handed a fine. The truth behind this tale is doubtful at best – after all Queen Margaret was just eight years old when she died, and scholars have been unable to find a record of the law. Others argue the tradition of women proposing on this day goes back to the times when the leap year day was not recognized by English law. Under this theory, if the day had no legal status, it was acceptable to break with the convention of a man proposing. Women either have to wear breeches or a scarlet petticoat to pop the question, according to tradition. In Denmark, if a man turns down a proposal, he must give the woman twelve pairs of gloves, and in Finland the penalty is fabric for a skirt. According to research conducted by Beefeater, 20 per cent of women said they would like to propose to their partner. Despite the fact that almost a third of women said they would be worried about their partner’s reaction. However, more than half of men (59 per cent) would love their girlfriends to get down on one knee.
Research from another survey indicated similar results, with more than half of the men saying they would accept a proposal from their girlfriend, and the majority asserting they would like to be given a ring by their partner. Yet just 15 per cent of women said they would consider proposing. Although there’s a theory that most unmarried men would love for their female partners to propose, recent research suggests Leap Year-inspired betrothals are doomed to failure.
If a person lives to be 80 years old, he or she will only experience a leap year 20 to 21 times. Thus, it is fairly rare in the lifetime of a person. This alone is a good reason to make each February 29 a memorable and fun day.