The leap year is known as a calendar year, which consists of an additional day. This is done to keep the calendar synchronized with the seasonal or astronomical year. Furthermore, the length of the day is corrected by inserting a leap second into the Coordinated Universal Time. However, leap seconds unlike leap days are not included in the regular schedule as it is nearly impossible to predict the length of a day.
The calendar, which we use, follows from the ancient Roman calendar. The ancient Romans did not have the knowledge of the Earth moving around the Sun and hence they made colossal mistakes while drawing up their first calendar. The calendar prepared by Romulus – the founder of the Roman Empire – had only 304 days in its year.
Almost 60 days had not been counted at all. The months also were 10 instead of 12. The names of the months were Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quinctilis, Sextilis, September, October, November and December respectively. The last six names straightaway mean fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth (month).
Once they realized that this calendar was incorrect, Emperor Pompilius (the one who succeeded Romulus) added two months at the end and called them January and February. At that time, these months were added at the end and not at the beginning. If the addition had been done at the beginning then the 10th month would have become the 12th month and then could not possibly be called December.
With the last month as February, Romulus’s calendar now had 12 months but it did not account for the remaining 1/4th day. (Because it takes Earth not exactly 365 days but 365.25 days to complete one circle round the Sun.) Many years later when Julius Caesar ascended the throne of Rome the calendar formulated by Romulus was ahead by nearly 80 days when compared to the solar year.
If this mistake was not taken care of immediately then it would only have become larger. Julius Caesar found it necessary to create a new calendar. He assigned the responsibility of this to the scientist named Sosigenes who lived in the city of Alexandria in Egypt. This scientist who had already counted the number of days the Earth took to complete one revolution around the Sun had to only just manage the number 365.25 properly. Just as before, he too divided the year into 12 months, but called January the first month.
So, February became the second month and consequently December became the twelfth month. Sosigenes allotted 30 and 31 days alternatively to each month except February to which he allotted 29 days. He had brought the total to 365 and also did not forget to take into account the remaining 1/4th day. He decided to count 30 days in February after every 4 years.
Therefore, after every 4 years, the four 1/4th days cumulatively became a whole day. He allotted 366 days to every 4th year. He was the first one to have the idea of leap year. Mankind has had to take up and accept this idea always.
Why do we need leap years?
As we all know, our calendars consist of 365 days because that is how long it takes the earth to orbit the sun. However, the problem is that it takes the earth in reality 365 ¼ days rather than 356 days to circle the sun, which means that our calendar will be out around a quarter of a day every year. It has not been long since the discrepancy has been observed. With time, the correction was made, and today we follow the same calendar, and the days add up quickly each year.
Interesting leap year facts
Leap year traditions
An interesting fact about leap year is that it is acceptable for a woman to propose to a man on February 29. The custom was basically a result of a complaint by St. Bridget to St. Patrick about women having to wait for men to step forward with marriage proposals.
Leap year babies
People who are born on leap days are called ‘leaplings’ or ‘leapers.’ The majority of them celebrate their birthdays on Feb 28or March 1 on non-leap years.
Leap year capital
The twin cities of Anthony, Texas, and Anthony of New Mexico are thought to be leap year capital of the world. Furthermore, they hold a four-day leap year festival each leap year, which includes a gigantic birthday party for all leap year babies.
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