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Project Britain
Folklore Calendar
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A month by month of forgotten legends and pastimes from Britain's folk history

image: back to main pageLeap Year Day

(occurs once every four years)

 

209 What is a leap year?

A leap year is a year in which one extra day has been inserted at the end of February. A leap year consists of 366 days, whereas other years, called common years, have 365 days.

The extra day, the 29 February, is the 60th day of a leap year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 306 days remaining.

209When is the next Leap Year?

Leap years generally occur every four years. The next leap year will fall in 2012.

209Why is it called a Leap Year?

Hundreds of years ago the leap year day had no recognition in English law. The day was 'leapt over' and ignored, hence the term 'leap year'.

209Why do we have a leap Day?

The 29 February is known as a leap day and it is added to the calendar during a leap year. This extra day is added every four years to bring the solar year of 365¼ days into line with the calendar year of 365 days.

209 A Leap Day Tradition

The one day of the year on which, traditionally, women can propose to men. It was considered that as the day also had no legal status, it was reasonable to assume that tradition had no status, so women took advantage of this and proposed to the man they wanted to marry.

A law once existed in Scotland forbidding a man to refuse a proposal made to him. Punishment for such an offence was a large fine.

This tradition goes back to an old Irish legend concerning St. Patrick and St. Bridget in the 5th Century.

In the 5th century, a nun by the name of St. Bridget, petitioned St. Patrick on behalf of all women in that they have a more active role in choosing their husbands. As a result of this request, women were allowed to propose to men once every four years.

209 Leap Day Superstition

In Scotland it is thought unlucky to be born on a Leap Year’s Day.

209 Interesting Fact about Leap Years

You can work out which year will be a year year by dividing the year by 4. Years which are evenly divisible by 4, such as 2004 and 2008 are leap years. However, there are some exceptions in century years.

A century year, that is, a year which ends in two zeroes 1800, 1900, 2000, etc., is not a leap year unless it is also evenly divisible by 400. This means that the year 2000 was a leap year and 2400 will also be one, but 1800 and 1900 were not leap years. Can you work out other century years which wont be leap years either? ( 2100, 2200, and 2300 )

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