February is almost here, and you may have noticed that this February has 29 days instead of the typical 28, making 2016 a leap year and February 29th a leap day! Also called an intercalary year or bissextile year, a leap year occurs approximately every four years and contains a total of 366 days. So where does the “leap” come from? Generally, each date on the calendar is one day of the week later each year—but the leap year causes these dates to “leap” over one day of the week. Continue reading for a closer look at leap days and how they help us keep our calendars straight.
The Reason for Leap Day
The standard calendar used throughout the modern world is known as the Gregorian calendar. Most years in this calendar contain 365 days—these are called common years. However, a solar year, or tropical year, is just under 365.25 days long. This means that over time, the calendar dates on which the seasons start would no longer line up with their true starts. To correct for this, an extra day is tacked onto the end of February almost every four years—the “almost” relates to the fact that a tropical year is not quite 365.25 days long. There are actually three leap days that are removed from the calendar every 400 years!
Leap Day Traditions
There are a variety of traditions related to leap days that have cropped up around the world. For example, in France, there is a satirical newspaper that is only published on February 29th. The most common traditions involve a reversal of traditional gender roles related to romance. In many countries, this is considered the day when women can propose to men, and in the United States, February 29th is sometimes called “Sadie Hawkins Day.”
How to Spend Your Leap Day
So what should you do on your extra day this year? This leap day falls on a Monday, but you don’t have to let that get you down! Consider doing something fun or unusual, such as eating breakfast for dinner, taking a more scenic route home from the office, or making it a screen-free day in your household.