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Dublin: 5 °C Friday 19 April, 2019

6 weird and wonderful things you didn't know about Leap Day

It’s more than just the worst birthday going, ya know.

AH, TRIVIA. IT’S just the thing to break out in the pub and blow your mates’ minds, or to come in handy when that inevitable table quiz rolls around.

We’ve got plenty of leap year themed facts, myths and traditions for you right here. Who knows when it might come in handy? (Well, it’ll mostly likely be another four years, but still… Let’s just hope that quiz has a specialty round on leap years.)

1. First things first

In a nutshell, a leap year is one with 366 days instead of our usual 365 days. We add on another day to February (that’s today, for those not paying attention). We do this because our solar calendar and our man-made calendar don’t match up. One year is technically 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. Today you are enjoying those extra hours, minutes and seconds.

From a Million Miles Away, NASA Camera Shows Moon Crossing Face of Earth Source: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

2. Back in the day

As with a lot of things, as it turns out, it was the Egyptians who first started this temporal patchwork quilt way of marking time. We use the Gregorian calendar, but there are other ways to mark time that also involve leap years – such as the Hebrew calendar, which adds a 13th lunar month.

Leap Day 2012 Source: danielmoyle

3. Say what?

You could also refer to 2016 as an “intercalary” year or – which sounds a little racy – a “bissextile” year. You’ll sound like you swallowed a thesaurus, but someone might be impressed, right?

nerd Source: Giphy

4. Lovers’ leap

There is a long-standing tradition across many Anglo-Saxon cultures to see leap years as subversive in the matters of love. Mostly, this means that there is an old belief that in leap years women can propose to men. And other (unfortunately forgotten) element of this tradition dictates that if the man refuses, he has to buy the woman a silk dress as compensation. (There are lots of old school cartoons mockingly depicting young women trying to ensnare hapless men as a result.)

PostcardLeapYearBeCarefulClara1908 Source: Wikimedia Commons

5. And losers’ leap

On the other hand, southern European countries view leap years as particularly bad luck. There are a whole host of Italian proverbs dedicated towards warning people off engagements in a leap year, and some statistics indicate one in five Greek couples will avoid it. Similar myths exist in Russia and the Ukraine around buying a house during a leap year. And another example of something terrible happening due to a leap year is…

leap-year-movie-poster Source: marshillonline

6. Altogether now…

“Happy birthday to you…” Are people born on a leap day technically far younger than us? They’d like to think so, anyway. Famous people born on a leap day include rapper Ja Rule and Romantic poet Lord Byron. Both wordsmiths in their own way, we suppose.

Source: JaRuleVEVO/YouTube

Any of you got a birthday today? Happy birthday – and let us know your experiences being born on such an elusive day in the comments…

We’re hope you’re enjoying your “extra” day – now don’t forget to make a saving on  your travel by using a Leap Card for your journey. It can be used to save you money on city bus services in Galway, Limerick, and Waterford; city bus and train services in Cork; as well as bus, train and tram services all around Dublin. Head over to Leap Card to find out more. 

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