The website www.timeanddate.com calls Feb. 29 an intercalary or extra day which is added during Leap Year and which makes the year 366 days long instead of the usual 365 days.
Leap Year occurs every four years on the Gregorian calendar which we follow.
Leap Day has been around for more than 2,000 years and remains associated with traditions, folklore and superstitions. Likely the best known traditions is that this is the day when women can propose to their boyfriends.
The website said that tradition is from an old Irish legend or maybe even history as St. Bridget and St. Patrick agreed to allow women to propose to men, and not just the other way around, every four years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar, the site said.
There are other places where Leap Day has been called Bachelors Day for the same reason. A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage proposal form a woman on Leap Day. In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a womans proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.
Why do we have Leap Years? They keep our calendar aligned with the Earths revolutions around the sun. The website noted that it takes the Earth about 365.242199 days (a tropical year) to revolve once around the sun. If we didnt add a day on February 29 nearly every four years, we would lose almost six hours every year. After only 100 years, our calendar would be off by approximately 24 days!
The website said an extra month was added every few years on the ancient Roman calendar to maintain the correct seasonal changes. Julius Caesar instituted a new calendar called the Julian calendar in 45 BCE (Before Common Era) with an extra day added every four years. Leap Day then was on Feb. 24 because February was the last month of the year.
Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 updated the Julian calendar with a rule that a century year is not a Leap Year unless it is evenly divisible by 400, the site said.
Among other tidbits of information on the website are that people born on Feb. 29 are invited to join The Honor Society of Leap Year Babies.
For more information, visit www.timeanddate.com.