The Origin of Leap Year

By Joel Garcia

February 29, leap year day, has been a day of superstitions and traditions since Emperor Augustus Caesar created the need for it 2000 years ago. Emperor Augustus found it unfair that the month of July- named after the previous ruler Julius Caesar, was 31 days long and August-his month, was only 29 days long. Out of jealously, he cut a few days from other months so that his month could have as many days as July. In the end, February was the month that was left with the least amount of days.

Fast forward a few hundred years to the Emerald Isle, Ireland. Under a different ruling, St. Brigid with St Patrick allowed women to propose to men on the 29th of February, every four years. It is thought to create balance between the sexes similar to the way that the Leap Day balances the calendar. The tradition spread throughout Europe to the extent that, in some places, Leap Day has been known as “Bachelors’ Day” for the same reason. Traditionally, a man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he rejected a proposal from a woman on that day. In the upper classes of European society, tradition dictated that any man who refused a woman’s proposal on February 29 had to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. This was done so that the women can wear the gloves to hide their embarrassment of not having an engagement ring.

 In Scotland, it used to be considered unlucky to be born on Leap Year, let alone Leap Day. Today, many parents aim to have their children born on the quadrennial date of February 29th to just make it seem unique by having your technical birthday every four years. Now, scientifically, we use leap day to balance the years for inaccurate time measurements which help synchronize our calendar year to the solar year.