This week we celebrate a leap day on the last day of February. To synchronize with the sun’s cycle, adjustments are made to our 365-day calendar.

The earth completes its annual revolution around the sun in 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes, plus 46 seconds. Keeping our astronomical calendar accurate, a leap day is added every four years.

Doing the math, the additional day every four years is a bit too much. Accordingly, the leap day is added only to century years that are evenly divisible by 400. The year 2000 was a leap year, but 1900 was not.

The “leap year” idea is attributed to Julius Caesar along with the astronomer Sosigenes. They devised the plan to incorporate an extra day every four years into their 365-day Roman calendar. When Caesar was in Egypt as a conqueror, he had learned about needed adjustments to the solar calendar.

Caesar added two months to the previous ten months calendar and omitted irregular additional holidays that had filled needed time. Julius named the two new months, July and August for himself and his stepson. Caesar gave these and some other months 31 days.

Achieving a 365-day calendar, Caesar snipped days from February. As such, February was good for the occasionally needed leap day. February 29 became leap day.

The Roman calendar still lacked minor adjustments necessary for accuracy. By the fourteenth century, the Roman calendar differed eleven days from the solar cycle. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII reformed the Julian Calendar.

Our modern Gregorian Calendar with its leap time formula is extremely accurate, requiring only a minor adjustment in 10,000 years. The planet’s timekeepers add a leap second on occasion to keep things on track.

Such is the history regarding this week’s event. Fewer than one in 1500 people, called leaplings or leapers, have a Leap Day birthday. Some live in our area.

Please wish any known leapers a special “Happy Birthday.” Only every four years can these folks celebrate their actual birth date. Buy a gift from one of our local stores, take the birthday person out to eat locally, or present flowers from a local flower shop.

Also interesting, leap day is customarily Sadie Hawkins Day. Popularized by Al Capp in the “Li’l Abner” cartoon strip. Traditionally, on February 29, only once every four years, a woman can ask a man to go on a date or even to get married.

Sadie Hawkins is based on a tradition reaching back 15 centuries in Ireland. According to legend, Saint Bridget implored Saint Patrick to do something about men who strung women along without ever making a commitment. Supposedly, Patrick agreed that a woman could tie down her guy, but only every four years on leap day.

Some historians claim that Queen Mary turned this practice into law in England. In some accounts, men who refused proposals on February 29 had to give the scorned women a lovely gift or a substantial amount of money.

The Sadie Hawkins practice was very popular in the United States before the 1960’s. When the women’s liberation movement took hold, many women felt impowered and freely did the asking regardless of the day.

Now, some are reviving the Sadie Hawkins tradition regarding marriage proposals. Many men do still drag their feet regarding weddings. Afterall, many live with the so-called benefits of marriage without having to tie-the-knot.

This week, gals, feel entitled to show your affection. At Hernandez Flowers buy a special guy some flowers or visit Pioneer Drug for clever guy gifts.

For all your gifting on February 29 and throughout the year, shop locally first.

(Janet Miller is a freelance writer specializing in family faith. She offers Family Prayers and Activities: Weekly Guides on compact disc for families to explore the Bible together. Email

Janet Miller

Janet Miller is a freelance writer specializing in family faith. She offers Family Prayers and Activities: Weekly Guides on compact disc for families to explore the Bible together. Email