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Business News/ Science / News/  Leap Year 2024: Here are FAQs on hows, whats and whys of February 29

Leap Year 2024: Here are FAQs on hows, whats and whys of February 29

A leap year adds an extra day to February to align with the solar year. FAQs explain its origin, from ancient civilizations to Pope Gregory XIII's Gregorian calendar

A calendar shows the month of February, including leap day, Feb. 29 (AP)Premium
A calendar shows the month of February, including leap day, Feb. 29 (AP)

A leap year, like 2024, is one with an extra day in the shortest month, February. On a leap year, February will have 29 days. This extra day is supposed to keep us in sync with the seasons. Here is a list of FAQs to help you under the extra day better:

Why is there an extra day?

The leap year was introduced to address the fraction in the solar year, by the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century. The calendar was created bearing in mind that it takes around 365.2422 days each year for the Earth to revolve around the sun, the extra snippet (around six hours a year) adds up over time.

Who came up with leap year?

The concept of leap year has evolved over time.

Ancient civilizations used the cosmos to plan their lives, and calendars date back to the Bronze Age. They were based on either the phases of the moon or the sun, as various calendars are today. Usually, they were “lunisolar," using both.

Then came the Roman Empire and Julius Caesar. He introduced his Julian calendar in 46 BCE. It was purely solar and counted a year at 365.25 days, so once every four years an extra day was added. Before that, the Romans counted a year at 355 days, at least for a time.

The Julian calendar was the model used by the Western world for hundreds of years. Enter Pope Gregory XIII, who calibrated further. His Gregorian calendar took effect in the late 16th century. It remains in use today and, clearly, isn't perfect or there would be no need for leap year. But it was a big improvement, reducing drift to mere seconds.

Also read: Take a second to look before you leap

Why did Pope Gregory XIII step in?

Well, in one word: Easter. It was coming later in the year over time, and he fretted that events related to Easter like the Pentecost might bump up against pagan festivals. The pope wanted Easter to remain in the spring.

He eliminated some extra days accumulated on the Julian calendar and tweaked the rules on leap day. It's Pope Gregory and his advisers who came up with the really gnarly math on when there should or shouldn't be a leap year.

Also Read: What's in a leap year? Eternal youth, wedding bells and tech bugs

What would happen without a leap day?

The seasons will change. Eventually, everything including when major events fall, when farmers plant and how seasons align with the sun and the moon will change.

“Without the leap years, after a few hundred years we will have summer in November," said Younas Khan, a physics instructor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Christmas will be in summer. There will be no snow. There will be no feeling of Christmas."

Also Read: Leap Day birthday 2024: List of celebrities set to celebrate their birth anniversary on February 29, 2024

When do leap year babies celebrate their birthdays?

Since a leap year happens only once in four years, different countries have devised different official birthdays of such babies. For example, in New Zealand, the official birthday of ‘Leap year babies’ falls on February 28 in common years. In other countries like the United Kingdom, the birthday of people born on a rare date have to wait until March 1.

The chance of babies being born on a leap day is at one in around 1,500. There are an estimated five million leaplings (people born on February 29) in the world today.

What are the superstitions attached with leap year?

In accordance with Greek customs, marrying during a leap year, particularly on a leap day is considered unlucky as reports state that the marriage could lead to divorce, The Quint has reported.

In Scotland, there exists a belief that people who are born on a leap day will experience a life filled with hardships. Not just this, but overall, some consider leap year as a bad year for farmers. Some reports of superstitions linked to the year are that the number of deaths also suddenly rises, and many people die in that particular year.

Also Read: Leap year 2024: Google marks ‘Leap Day’ with doodle on February 29

What is the connection of leap year and technology?

According to an AFP report, the existence of an extra day around twice a decade has also created its fair share of online mayhem, never more so than in 2000.

The prediction from doomsayers that January 1 would see a total information shutdown never came to pass, but on February 29 an alarming succession of system errors took place across the globe.

This included Japan's meteorological service sending out faulty weather reports and Montreal's tax service shutting down.

(With inputs from AP

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Published: 29 Feb 2024, 09:15 AM IST
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