NEXT week will bring the latest Leap Day, when February 29 messes up the calendar as it does every four years, except if the year is divisible by 100 and not 400.

It is leap year in the Gregorian Calendar which is used by most of the world. A Leap Day only happens if it is the year of the monkey, rat or dragon in the Chinese calendar. Are you following? It’s a complex issue …


THE Earth orbits around the Sun at a rate of 365 days and six hours, give or take a minute, per orbit. Clearly that is not an exact measurement so the Leap Day every four years puts things right and restores Earth’s orbital position within the Solar System.

This has been the case under the Gregorian Calender named after Pope Gregory XIII who decreed that the Roman Catholic church would follow this rule from the year 1582.

The problem at the time was that the church wasn’t exactly popular with a lot of countries that were already Protestant or were in the process of becoming so, and it took a very long time for all the countries of the Western world to actually agree to adopt Pope Gregory’s calendar – Greece took until1923 to adopt it.

The National: Pope Gregory XIIIPope Gregory XIII

Most countries in the world have long since adopted the convention of the Gregorian Calendar so that we call agree what date it is, but several nations and religions insist on using their own calendars.

Prior to the Gregorian there was the Julian calendar, devised by Julius Caesar himself after consultations with Greek philosophers and mathematicians, which the emperor decreed to start in 45BC.

It is still used by parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Berber people of North and North-West Africa.

The Julian calendar was the first to have 365 days and a wee bit extra, gained by having February 24 twice, so it can be argued that Julius Caesar invented the Leap Day, and he lived to see the first extra day but only one, being assassinated the following year on the Ides of March, 44 BC.

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WE all work an extra day for the boss/capitalist/managerial class and nobody seems to bat an eyelid.

That’s either because we are all downtrodden members of the proletariat, or submissive followers of tradition, or accept the nonsensical proposition that our political and economic rulers actually

know about such things as intercalary or bissextile years – to use the technical terms – and are just taking their due time back from us.


LEAP Day has some of the strange traditions attached to it.

For instance, if you are born on February 29, you are entitled to call yourself a “leapling” and celebrate your birthday on February 28. In Hong Kong, you must celebrate your birthday on March 1.

The best-known tradition is that women can propose to men on a Leap Day. It’s a Scottish-Irish tradition based on legend – it was attributed to St Patrick or St Brigid in Ireland and the Maid of Norway, Margaret of Scotland.

The trouble is the Irish legend didn’t surface until the 19th century and Margaret was only five and living in Norway when the Leap Day law was supposedly passed in 1288.

Men who didn’t accept the proposal had to pay fines starting at £1, and they also had to pay the “jilted” proposers gloves to hide their non-existent rings.