Why Do We Have Leap Year?

Why do we have leap year?

FEBRUARY 19, 2014
Calendars

Nearly every four years, we add an extra day to the calendar in the form of February 29, also known as Leap Day. Put simply, these additional 24 hours are built into the calendar to ensure that it stays in line with the Earth’s movement around the Sun. While the modern calendar contains 365 days, the actual time it takes for Earth to orbit its star is slightly longer—roughly 365.2421 days. The difference might seem negligible, but over decades and centuries that missing quarter of a day per year can add up. To ensure consistency with the true astronomical year, it is necessary to periodically add in an extra day to make up the lost time and get the calendar back in synch with the heavens.

The Egyptians were among the first to calculate the need for a leap year, but the practice didn’t arrive in Europe until the reign of the Roman dictator Julius Caesar. Before then, the Roman calendar had operated on a muddled lunar model that regularly required adding an extra month to maintain celestial consistency. Finally, in 46 B.C., Caesar and the astronomer Sosigenes revamped the Roman calendar to include 12 months and 365 days. This “Julian Calendar” also accounted for the slightly longer solar year by adding a leap day every four years.

Caesar’s model helped realign the Roman calendar, but it had one small problem. Since the solar year is only .242 days longer than the calendar year and not an even .25, adding a leap year every four years actually leaves an annual surplus of roughly 11 minutes. This minute discrepancy meant that the Julian Calendar drifted off course by one day every 128 years, and by the 14th century it had strayed 10 days off the solar year. To fix the glitch, Pope Gregory XIII instituted a revised “Gregorian Calendar” in 1582. In this model, leap years occur ever four years except for years evenly divisible by 100 and not by 400. For example, the year 1900 was not a leap year because it was divisible by 100, but not 400. The Pope’s updated calendar remains in use to this day, but it’s still not perfect—experts note that the remaining discrepancies will need to be addressed in around 10,000 years.

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Sadie Hawkins Day Fact

It’s Sadie Hawkins Day. You know, the day when the girls are supposed to ask out the boys. Like us, you may have vivid memories of those dreadful Sadie Hawkins Day school dances, where the pressure was on and the gossip was flying about who would ask whom to the dance. Although it may have seemed like a fun novelty then, knowing what we know now, we think… not so much.

The legend that we’ve always been fed about Sadie Hawkins Day is that it’s supposed to make girls and women feel a sense of empowerment. But knowing the ugly truth behind its origin, we’re not sure how this atrocious “holiday” is still being observed today.

So how did this day become so engrained in our American folklore? Here’s what you should know…

Sadie Hawkins was not an actual person. She made her public debut in cartoon artist Al Capp’sNovember 15, 1937 comic strip Li’l Abner, which was set in the fictional mountain village of Dogpatch, Kentucky. Sadie, “the homeliest gal in all them hills,” was the daughter of Hezekiah, the town’s most wealthy and powerful man. Because Sadie was so ugly, she couldn’t land herself a husband. It terrified Hezekiah to think that his “ancient” 35-year-old daughter would suffer the worst humiliation a woman could ever experience – being an old maid – so he took the matter into his own hands. more…

Al Capp's original Sadie HawkinsCalling all the bachelors in town, Hezekiah declared it “Sadie Hawkins Day” and ordered a race of eligible bachelors with Sadie chasing after them… when a man was caught, he would be legally bound to marry her. The other town spinsters loved this idea so much that they declared Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory annual event, which was recreated in the comic strip by Capp every November… for FORTY years!