Saturday, February 25, 2012

Leap Year-itis

By Julie Rahm

The Roman or “pre-Julian” calendar was created during the founding of Rome and is believed to have been a lunar calendar. Romans claim it was invented by Romulus, the first king of Rome, at around 753 BCE (Before Common Era). However, there is evidence it was adapted from the Greeks. The Roman calendar year started in March and consisted of 10 months, with 6 months of 30 days and 4 months of 31 days. The winter season was not assigned to any month, so the calendar year only lasted 304 days with 61 days unaccounted for in the winter. This Roman calendar was complicated. It required a group of people to decide when days should be added or removed in order to keep the calendar in track with the seasons, which are marked by equinoxes and solstices in the calendar.

In order to create a more standardized calendar, Julius Caesar consulted with an Alexandrian astronomer named Sosignenes and created a more regulated civil calendar based entirely on the Earth's revolutions around the sun.

This “Julian” calendar has a year of 365 days divided into 12 months with a leap day added to the month of February every four years (leap year). This made the Julian year 365.25 days long. When, in fact, the year is eleven minutes shorter. This extra eleven minutes caused several issues.

The eleven minutes resulted in the accumulation of three days every 400 years. Over time, the spring equinox started occurring on March 11th, an error of about ten days. Since the spring equinox was tied to the celebration of Easter, the Roman Catholic Church considered this steady movement in the date of the spring equinox as undesirable. Enter Pope Gregory the 13th who, on the 24th of February 1582, introduced the Western or Christian Calendar. Pope Gregory changed the length of the calendar year from 365.25 days (365 days 6 hours) to 365.2425 days (365 days 5 hours 49 minutes 12 seconds), a reduction of 10 minutes 48 seconds per year. This Gregorian calendar is the one we use today.

Now, every year that is exactly divisible by four is a leap year, except for years that are exactly divisible by 100; the centurial years that are exactly divisible by 400 are still leap years. For example, the year 1900 is not a leap year; the year 2000 is a leap year. Now you know!

My point in all this is; dates are man made and very contrived. There are at least fifty different calendars used throughout the world. Month, date and day matter very little. Most important is to be in the moment and enjoy your time here on the planet. So, enjoy your extra day this year knowing it is not really extra at all. It has been here all the while. Visit my website at to learn more about living the life you deserve. See my work with military kids at


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