All About the Calendar

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Ever wondered why every four years we have a leap day in February? Read on and the Sunny-D team will reveal all…

The earth goes around the sun…

We define a year as the time it takes for the earth to orbit (go round) the sun, that is, 365 days. In fact, it takes a little bit longer, roughly 365 and a quarter days. To be even more precise, one solar year takes 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes 46 seconds. The extra quarter of a day is carried over each year, and every four years the quarters are added together to make one extra day. The is the leap day, 29th February.

If we didn't have the extra day, gradually the seasons would be attached to the wrong time of year. Over many years spring would gradually become later and the snowdrops wouldn't come out until June!

A new calendar

The ancient Egyptians first figured out that the solar year and the calendar year didn't match. But it was the Romans, very organised people, who decided to sort it out and change the calendar. The new calendar was called the Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar. In 1592 that the calendar we use today was introduced. This was the Gregorian calendar, named after Pope Gregory.

One birthday party every four years

A person born on a leap day, sometime called a 'leapling', only has one birthday every four years! So they can choose whether to celebrate their birthday on 1st March or 28th February in non-leap years. For official purposes, in the UK, their birthday is always considered to be 1st March.

Fun Leap Day Facts

Traditionally, in cultures that discourage women from proposing marriage, they were allowed to on a leap day. Queen Margaret of Scotland, the story goes, decreed that if men refused they should pay a fine in the form of a kiss, a silk dress or a pair of gloves.

In Finland, if a man refuses a woman's proposal on a leap day, tradition says he must buy her the fabric to make a new skirt.

In Greece it is considered unlucky to get married in a leap year.

Famous people born on a leap day include the rapper Ja Rule, born 1976, the actor Anthonio Sabato, born 1972, and the serial killer Aileen Wuornos, born 1956.

The town of Anthony in Texas has named itself 'leap year capital of the world'. It holds a leap day festival and invites leaplings to come and join in.

The probability of a leap day birthday is 1 in 1461 and less than 0.07% of the world's population was born on a leap day.

Confused? This poem will help you to remember!

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November,
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear,
And twenty-nine in each leap-year.