This month, our calendars gift us an extra day, the elusive 29th of February, courtesy of the leap year phenomenon. While many of us are familiar with the concept of leap years occurring every four years, the science and lore behind this calendar adjustment are as intriguing as the extra day itself.

The Earth's Dance and the Need for Leap Years

The traditional calendar year comprises 365 days, symbolising Earth's journey around the sun. However, the Earth takes approximately 365.242190 days to complete its orbit, necessitating the introduction of a leap year every four years. Without this adjustment, the seasons would gradually drift, causing our summers to fall in unexpected months over centuries.

The Mathematics of Time: Leap Day Calculations

Adding an extra day every four years might seem like a perfect solution, but the Earth's orbit doesn't neatly fit this pattern. The discrepancy between the calendar year and the sidereal year is approximately 23.262222 hours over four years. By rounding up to 24 hours, our calendar becomes slightly longer, accumulating an additional 44+ minutes over time.

To maintain precision, leap years follow a rule: divisible by 100 but not by 400. For instance, the year 2000 was a leap year, while 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. The next skipped leap year will be in 2100.

The Leap in "Leap Year": Symbolism and Birthdays

Why is it called "leap year"? In a common year, your birthday might transition from a Monday to a Tuesday. However, during a leap year, the extra day causes your birthday to "leap" over a day, shifting from, say, a Monday to a Wednesday.

The frog has become the symbol associated with February 29th, most likely because of it's association with leaping.

Individuals born on February 29th, are known as "Leaplings" or "Leapers". Being a leapling is a rare occurrence, with odds of 1 in 1461, and only around 5 million leaplings worldwide!

Legends of Leap Day: Empowering Proposals

Leap day carries with it a fascinating legend that dates back to 5th-century Ireland. As the story goes, Saint Brigid was distressed by the societal norm preventing women from proposing to men. In response, Saint Patrick declared February 29th as the exclusive day for women to propose, turning it into Bachelor's Day in some cultures. This association with female empowerment and unconventional proposals adds a touch of romance and rebellion to the leap year tradition.

Make the Most of the Extra Day

So what will you do to celebrate having an extra day this year? Here at Paintvine we are celebrating by painting Botanical Flowers in Dunedin, and with an outrageous Dragvine event hosted by the hilarious Anita Wigl'it in Auckland. Cheer's to the 29th February!