What makes today special?

Ruth Griffiths

Today is a special day because Feb. 29 appears on our calendar only once every four year. We call it a Leap Day and 2024 is a Leap Year.

The famous Julius Caesar is credited with standardizing the calendar in 45 BC. He created a calendar of 12 months with 365 days numbered sequentially within the month.

Most people today use the Gregorian calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.  Our year is the length of time it takes Earth to orbit the sun. Because our year is approximately 365 ¼ days, this revised calendar allowed for an extra day which we now know as Leap Day.

Leap Days occur in years that are multiples of four, except for years evenly divisible by 100 but not by 400. For example, 1896 was a Leap Year, but 1900 was not. Correcting the calendar with a Leap Day allows for the length of the Earth’s orbit at 365 days 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds.

The term “leap year” probably comes from the fact that a fixed date normally advances one day a week from one year to the next but inserting an extra day in February causes the date to advance two days thus “leaping” over one day in the week. For example Christmas fell on Friday in 2020, Saturday in 2021, Sunday in 2022 and Monday in 2023 but it will “leap” over Tuesday to fall on Wednesday in 2024.

A person born on February 29 may be called a “leapling”. In non-leap years they usually celebrate their birthday on February 28 or March 1.

Some famous leaplings include:

  • American singer Dinah Shore born Feb. 29, 1916;
  • Montreal Canadiens star Henri Richard was born on Leap Day 1936;
  • DC comics says Superman was born on Feb. 29..

An Irish legend allowed a woman to propose marriage on Feb. 29. If the man rejected the proposal he had  to pay her a fine … a kiss,  a pair of gloves or money for a silk dress.

In 1984, Pierre Elliott Trudeau took his famous walk in the snow and announced on Feb. 29 that he would be stepping down as Prime Minister. Should we await an announcement from his son, Justin, today?