February 29th – Leap Day – only comes once every four years and represents our attempts to keep our man-made calendars aligned with nature – that is, the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. The Earth needs approximately 365 days and 6 hours to circle the sun and complete one year. At that rate, our Julian calendar, which was adopted in 46 B.C., would lose 6 hours a year or a full day every 4 years. Having a Leap Day or Leap Year every four years makes up for those hours and keeps the calendar on track.
Of course, calendars have endured their share of meddling for ages, from the ancient Romans, who originally moved the start of the year from the beginning of Spring to January, to the Catholic Church, which moved and changed the ancient Aztec corn festival from Summer to the Fall celebration of Dia de Los Muertos and “All Saints Day”.
Many traditional calendars, including Chinese, Jewish, Hindu, Iranian, and Ethiopian, also periodically adjust in various ways, such as adding a month every few years to even things up.
According to an old Irish legend, Leap Day is a day for women to turn the traditional tables and propose marriage to men.
Only about one in 1461 people celebrate a birthday on Leap Year.
Here are some things that have happened on Leap Day in history.
And some vintage photos that celebrate leaping!
Enjoy this extra, and extraordinary, day!
Photos: Unknown, State Library and Archives of Florida, Smithsonian Archives