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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Exactly Is Leap Year? By GAP Author Kai Strand





This is a leap year. Leap years are needed every four years to maintain the alignment between the calendar and the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. It takes the Earth approximately 365.242199 days to circle one full time around the Sun. By adding a day to every fourth year, we ‘catch up’ with the extra quarter day for each annual revolution.

Julius Cesar introduced the leap day of February 29th into the Julian calendar more than 2000 years ago, but his calculations were off and he had them too frequently. Eventually the seasons weren’t lining up with the calendar. 1500 years later, the Gregorian calendar designated that every year divisible by 4 would be a leap year. Which makes me wonder what date the Romans thought it was when the Gregorian calendar took over.

Turns out, the Julian calendar was off by ten days. The year the Gregorian calendar fixed the mistake, it jumped from October 4th to October 15th. The people worried that it meant their lives would be shorter and there was protesting in the streets. “We want our 10 days back!”

Even with the extra day thrown in, our calendar still doesn’t line up perfectly with the solar year, so it was decided that any year divisible by 100 would not have a leap year, except when divisible by 400. So there was no leap day in 1900, but it was celebrated with the extra calendar date in 2000. Phew! Did you catch all that?

Were you born on a leap day? Congratulations, you are finally another year older this year. Just kidding. Most people born on a leap day celebrate either February 28th or March 1st during non-leap years. Some astrologers believe people born on a leap day have unusual talents and personalities to signify their special status. What is your unusual talent?

Wanting to take advantage of the date’s unusual status, on February 29, 2012, 56 countries will be celebrating Rare Disease Day hoping to draw attention to needed research for ailments with no known cure. Hopefully they don’t have to wait another four years to call attention to worthy research.

Today we are sophisticated enough to know that we could decide to call the day “purple” and it won’t change the actual rising and setting of the sun or the revolution of the Earth. The calendar is a man made assignment of value that simply helps us to stay in tune with each other.

So, happy Leap Year to you. We may assign the day a special moniker, but in the end it is just another day full of opportunities and possibilities.

Kai Strand writes fiction for middle grade and young adult readers. In particular, she loves fantasy, but in no means is limited to it. Her debut tween novel, The Weaver, is a lyrical tale about persistence, full of storytelling and a dash of magic. Her second middle grade novel, Save the Lemmings! will be published in March, 2012. Visit Kai’s website: http://www.kaistrand.com/, where you can download book club questions, a word search or a companion craft for The Weaver and learn more about her writing.

1 comment:

Bill Kirk said...

Very cool, Kai. Thanks for sharing the back story. Can you imagine what folks would be saying if we lost 10 days this year? Roughly 190 million people would give up their birthdays! As for the next centennial adjustment in 2400, regretably I'll miss it. But I guess I should be glad I was one of the six billion people who were around for the one in Y2K.

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LAST PAGE IN THE DIARY
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TOO MANY KITTIES
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'TWAS THE YEAR CHRIST LEFT CHRISTMAS
VIVIEN'S BEACH DREAM
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WHAT IN THE WORLD SHOULD I BE?
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