This year, something special will occur in the month of February. Instead of having twenty-eight days, this month will have twenty-nine. The year 2008 is a leap year!February 2008 has five Fridays – it starts and ends on a Friday. Between 1904 and 2096, leap years with same day of week for each date repeat every 28 years which means that the last time February had 5 Fridays was in 1980 and next time will be in 2036.
What makes a year have 366 days as opposed to its usual 365? Here are the rules that the Gregorian calendar uses to decide which years are leap years.
1. Every year divisible by 4 is a leap year.
2. But every year divisible by 100 is NOT a leap year
Unless the year is also divisible by 400, then it is still a leap year.
That means that the year 2000 was the first time the third rule was ever used.
The reason why we have leap years is because it keeps our calendar aligned with the earth’s movement around the sun. A year is not always exactly 365 days long. During tropical years, when the sun is directly above the Earth’s equator, a year would be 365.2422 days long. Using a calendar with 365 days would result in an error of 0.2422 days or almost 6 hours per year. After 100 years, this calendar would be more than 24 days ahead of the seasons. Leap years help reduce this difference.
Did you know that people assume that traditions have no status on Leap day?
In the olden days, women were only allowed to propose to men on a leap day. A law was even made that any man who declined a proposal in a Leap Year must pay a fine. The fine could range from a kiss to payment for a silk dress or a pair of gloves.
There is a Greek superstition that claims couples have bad luck if they marry during a leap year. Apparently one in five engaged couples in Greece will avoid planning their wedding during a leap year.
Enjoy this special day to its fullest since it won’t occur for another four years. Happy Leap Year!
This article was written by Christine Keung. It was published in the Temple City Voice on February 27, 2008.