Leap Day – holiday or unlucky?

Leap Day – it is a bit of a strange concept.  Every four years people decide to throw an extra day in the year, the reason being to make up for the extra fourth of a day that it takes for the earth to make its full orbit around the sun.

Well, technically it takes less than an extra fourth.  That is why every 100 years the extra day is skipped. However, on the years divisible by 400, the skipping of the extra day is skipped.  It is a little confusing.  Until 2100, though, just know that every four years there are 366 days instead of 365 days in a year.

(Photo by Justin Kish)

(Photo by Justin Kish)

February 29 is the leap day in modern calendars, but it has not always been that way.  It used to be that up until the time of Julius Caesar, people lived their life according to a 355 day calendar year with an extra month with 22 days every two years, but Julius Caesar had his astronomer change that.

The main reason February has the extra day is because it is now the shortest month, but it has not. Until Julius’s successor, Caesar Augustus, February had 30 days. Augustus moved those days to August – the month named after him.  February suffered because of Augustus’s pride.

While February 29 is just a day to make the astronomers and astrologers happy with the calendar, it has some interesting traditions.  One of the most common traditions is the fifth century Irish proposal to men from women custom.

The ritual emerged from a tale stating that St. Brigid complained to St. Patrick that men took too long to propose.  St. Patrick made a decree that women could propose only one day every four years on leap day.  The tradition says that St. Brigid immediately fell to one knee to propose to St. Patrick. He declined.

Scotland also adopted a version of law, stating that a man who declined the proposal must pay a fine, a lesson learned from St. Brigid and St. Patrick.  The fine could range from something as small as a kiss to money for an article of clothing.

Scotland also considers this day unlucky.  As Friday the 13th is considered unlucky by many, February 29th is a dreaded day to Scots.  It is also considered unlucky if one is born on this day.  The Greeks consider it unlucky if couples marry at any point during a leap year.

While it might be an unfortunate notion for Scots and Greeks to marry on this day, it may not be to some.  Malone senior mathematics major, Melody Sabo, says her grandparents were married on leap day.

In addition to all the marriage stories surrounding Leap Day, some countries celebrate the day as Rare Disease Day.  It is a time to raise awareness and funding for diseases that currently do not have a cure.

While Leap Day may hold different destinies, some people just view it as another excuse to have a party.  While there is no specific reason or method to the party, frog legs are considered the most appropriate food for this celebration.


Greenberg, J. (2012, February 29). Leap Year 2012: Why does leap day exist? Strange facts, traditions, and history of Feb. 29 explained. Retrieved from IBT: http://www.ibtimes.com/leap-year-2012-why-does-leap-day-exist-strange-facts-traditions-history-feb-29-explained-417932

Leap year: 10 things about 29 February. (2012, March 1). Retrieved from BBC News: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-17203353

O’Shea, J. (2016, January 19). 2016 is leap year – that means women can ask men to marry them. Retrieved from Irish Central: http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/leap-year-february-29th-is-when-women-can-ask-men-to-marry-them-140128503-237431711.html


Mollie Ridings is a staff writer for The Aviso



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