Happy Intercalary Day! Say what? That’s actually just a fancy way of saying Happy Leap Day, which is today, February 29. But you already knew that, right?
But, did you know a non-leap year is called a common year and has 365 days while a leap year has 366? Okay, you knew that too. Did you know, though, that a leap year occurs every four years? Okay fine, you’re on top of that too. But, do you know why? Gotcha? Maybe?
Well, a leap year happens in order to help synchronize the calendar year with the solar year, which is the length of time it takes the earth to complete its orbit around the sun. The calendar we use is called the Gregorian calendar and was put into place by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. On this calendar, every year divisible by four has an extra day and is called a “Leap Year.” Century years are the exception to the four year rule though, as they must be divisible by 400 to be Leap Years. This is why the year 2000 was a Leap Year but 1900 wasn’t and why 2400 will be one but not 2100.
But what’s in the name “leap?”
The name is thought to come from the fact that, while a fixed date in the Gregorian calendar normally advances one day of the week from one year to the next, the day of the week in the 12 months following a Leap Year will advance two days, thus “leaping” over one of the days.
But why always in February?
Some historians credit Julius Caesar way back when he took power and reconfigured the then Roman calendar. He aligned the length of a year with the sun, giving each year 365 days and for reasons unknown he left February at 28 days. Others say the month was selected kinda randomly and it just stuck.
Okay, so what happens if you’re born on a Leap Day?
Codes vary state-by-state as to when a leap baby or “leapling” celebrates his or her birthday, but most consider March 1 as the day. Interestingly, there is a 1 in 1,500 chance of being born on a leap day and babies born on one are thought to have special talents according to astrologers.
Other myths and legends about a Leap Year and Leap Day in particular include the Irish “Bachelor’s Day” legend that St. Brigid opened up the gates for women to propose marriage to men on a Leap Day after she struck a deal with St. Patrick as a way to balance the traditional roles of men and women in society, much like a leap day adds balance to the calendar. Boy was she a woman ahead of her time! This tradition is still occasionally observed in England but in neighboring Scotland February 29 is often considered as unlucky as Friday the 13th.
Coincidentally, Leap Years almost always coincide with U.S. election years, as is the case this year, and often times with Olympic years as well. The next three leap years will be 2024, 2028, and 2032.
If you’re looking for a way to celebrate today’s Leap Day, what better way than with the official Leap Day Cocktail? Invented by bartender Harry Craddock of London’s tony Savoy Hotel in 1928, it is considered a martini-like drink and is said to have been responsible for more proposals than any cocktail ever mixed according to the “Savoy Cocktail Book.” Here is the original recipe:
Craddock’s Leap Day Cocktail
1 dash lemon juice
1/6 Grand Marnier
1/6 sweet vermouth
Shake, serve, garnish with a lemon peel.
Enjoy and Happy Leap Day!