5 surprising facts about leap years

5 surprising facts about leap years

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Everybody knows what a leap year is. But let’s see how many of you are familiar with these interesting facts about it:

1. The persons to whom we need to thank (or should blame) for the existence of leap years are none others than Julius Caesar and Emperor Augustus. In Ancient Rome, they used to have a calendar of 355 days, which came to grow out of sync with every season. This led, of course, to the impossibility of celebrating festivals on the same date each year. As a result, in 45 BC, Julius Caesar decided that a new calendar should be adopted, one with 365 days a year and an extra day every leap year.

But this is not the end of this story: the calendar was initially set so as the leap year to occur every 3 years, fact which was corrected by Emperor Augustus in 8 BC, so that the leap year would occur every 4 years.

And were your ever curious why the month of February is shorter than the others? Well this is because The Roman Senate renamed the month of Sextilis as Augustus (August) in order to honor the famous emperor. But because initially August had only 30 days and July (Julius Caesar’s month) had 31, August borrowed a day from February for the sake of Emperor Augustus’ pride.

2. John Melo was convicted to ten years and one day in prison in February 1997. He later on filed a complaint that the length of his sentence was miscalculated and that he served some additional days in prison because of the leap years. His motion was allowed but he did not win the case.

Later on, the Superior Court ruled that his motion had no reason to even be proceeded because he was sentenced to a certain number of years in prison, regardless of the number of days that each year had.

3. The town of Antony, Texas, declared itself the “Leap Year Capital of the World” in 1988. Why is that? Because two of the members of its Chamber of Commerce were born on leap year days. Festivities are planned for February 29 of this year as well.

4. Michelle Birnbaum of Saddle River, New Jersey, born on February 29, 1980, gave birth to her daughter Rose on February 29, 2008. What is interesting is that the odds of a child being born on February 29 are 1 in 1641. More interesting still is the fact that the chances of both mother and daughter to be born on this day are around 2 million to one.

5. Over the years, there have been a lot of propositions of ways of reforming the calendar and dividing the year. However, some of them are more controversial than others.

For example, Jeff Siggins proposed in July 1989 that the Gregorian Calendar be replaced with his “Tranquility Calendar”. This calendar would name July 20, 1969 (or the day when humans landed on the Moon in the Sea of Tranquility) Day Zero, and all years after that would be referred to as “After Tranquility”. Siggins also planned to name the months after famous scientists such as Darwin or Archimedes, and to designate the leap day as Aldrin Day, after astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Randy Bruner also came up with his own idea: the Dreamspell Calendar based on the Mayan one. This calendar would not include the leap day as an actual day of the week. Instead, it would name it a “Day out of time”, a non-day.

However, one of the most popular suggestions for reforming the calendar remains Elisabeth Achelis’ one. Her calendar was called the World Calendar and it was created in 1930. Its main characteristic would have been to move February 29 to June 31 and make it a world holiday.

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Caroline Parker has a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies from the University of Bucharest. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in the same field. She specializes in gender issues, ethnic minorities, and has a passion for literature, but she loves to find out more about any subject she comes across. When she is not busy with her studies, she is attending conferences, seeing plays which deal with contemporary issues in society, traveling, taking photos for her Instagram account, and watching beauty related vlogs. She aims to become a published writer and to pursue a Ph.D. is the field of gender studies.