Happy Birthday, Leaplings.
Time is not a simple concept.
While we surround ourselves and base much of our days off of the ever-passing hours, minutes, and seconds ticking away on our clocks, watches, and phones, our entire system of measuring duration is flawed.
One of the most obvious ways we try and correct this flawed system is through leap years, which, most simply put, add an extra day at the end of February every four years. But does this really solve the problem, or do leap years open a whole new can of worms?
Leap years bring with them plenty of traditions, celebrations, and questions, so we’ve compiled a few of the most bizarre facts about them to show just how weird time really is.
These leap year facts might just confuse you even more…
It’s all about Easter.
Today, most of the Western world utilizes the Gregorian calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. This new calendar served as an updated form of the Julian calendar, which was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. The main reason for the change in calendar was to celebrate Easter closer to the spring equinox, as it would have been celebrated in the early Church. In order to keep Easter from drifting too far from its desirable date, Italian scholar and chronologist Aloysius Lilius proposed the new calendar system, in which Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon that falls either on or after March 21.
Fun fact: Greece didn’t accept the Gregorian calendar until 1923.
The Gregorian calendar, like its predecessors, is imperfect.
Contrary to what we’re taught as children, a year is not perfectly 365 days long. In fact, an Earth year can’t be equally split into a clean number, but rather a repeating decimal (not to mention that the Earth’s rotation is slowing down, which will very gradually make years longer than they are now.)
The Julian calendar broke down a year into 365.25 days with 100 leap years every 400 years, but this was ultimately still too long. The Gregorian calendar shortened years by 10 minutes and 48 seconds, to roughly 365.2425 days (365 days 5 hours 49 minutes 12 seconds.) To account for the remaining imperfections, the new calendar lowered the number of leap years to 97 out of every 400 years. Sounds simple, right?