From an astronomy point of view, a year is referred to as the amount of time that the earth takes to orbit around the sun. Most often, this is counted as three-hundred and sixty-five days. That is equal to eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty hours. However, it takes the earth roughly five to six additional hours to completely rotate around the sun. Over a period of four years, those five to six hours add up to an additional day; we refer to this extra time every four years as Leap Year.
According to Dr. Marshall Shepherd, Director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia, “Even this adjustment overcompensates by about 11 minutes.” To recompense this eleven minute difference, James Rodger states that “the leap year does not occur three times every four centuries.” In addition, century years do not have an additional day unless they can be evenly divided by four-hundred.
Rodger explains that this time formulation was first instigated by Julius Caesar in the Roman empire over two thousand years ago. However, with the release of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII adjusted the calendar to compensate for the eleven minute disparity.
What happens if a person is born on a Leap Year? That person would celebrate his/her birthday on March first in most countries, ensuring that they continue to age at the same rate as everyone else. In reality, the person only experiences his/her actual birthday once every four years.
Made well-known by the movie titled Leap Year, there are Irish traditions that exist to celebrate the holiday. According to bbc.com, the “tradition of a woman proposing on a leap year has been attributed to various historical figures. One, although much disputed, was St. Bridget in the 5th Century.” St Bridget complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for proposals by their suitors. St Patrick then allowed women to propose to their suitor on one day every four years. Stephanie Hallett, writer for the Huffington Post, said that “Brigid then dropped to a knee and proposed to Patrick that instant, but he refused, kissing her on the cheek and offering a silk gown to soften the blow.” Therefore, tradition states that any man refusing a woman on Leap Day must give her a silk gown.
Another way that this tradition has been said to brought to pass is before leap year was recognised by English law. It is theorized that “if the day had no legal status, it was acceptable to break with the convention of a man proposing” states bbc.com.
Whether or not St Bridget did, in fact, propose to St Patrick, the tradition of letting women propose on Leap Day continues to this day.