Marshall, Illinois, is Leaping into a Leap Year

Every four years, we have what we call a Leap Year. That year, we went from our usual 365 days per year to one of 366 days. But why the heck do we have leap years?

Well, it depends on the time it takes for Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun. We refer to that as one “solar year.” We play with the number of days a bit by rounding the days in a calendar year to 365. An extra 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds per year are unaccounted for. While that seems like it could be more critical, it’s enough to mess with the calendars. If we kept subtracting almost six hours every year, year after year, things could change drastically.

Let’s say that you live in a place where it is very warm in August. Without accounting for this with the leap years, August might become a cold winter month in time (well, a couple hundred years). We add one day to our calendar year every four years to make up for that. That year is called a leap year, and guess what? Oh, you probably know this… 2024 is one of those years. So, we will have February 29, 2024, on our calendar.


Why the name Leap Year?

The actual name for the extra time in calendars is “intercalation.” It is not easy to say or remember, so we use the term “leap year” because each date on the calendar jumps ahead two days of the week instead of one. For example, one year, Christmas might fall on a Thursday. In regular years, the following year, it would fall on a Friday, but in a Leap year, it “leaps” ahead and falls on a Saturday instead.


Fun Facts:


Julius Caesar introduced Leap Day

Caesar re-ordered the Roman calendar, setting up how much of the world still operates today. He spent some time in Egypt and became convinced that the Egyptian solar calendar was the most accurate. They relied on the stars, but Caesar made one modification to their calculations by simply adding a day to every fourth year – thus began Leap Day.


Leap Day is often associated with marriage proposals… by women!

The story goes that in 5th-century Ireland, St. Bridget was upset that women were not allowed to propose marriage to men. So, she brought it to the attention of St. Patrick. He designated that February 29 would be the day on which women would be allowed to propose to men because it happened only once every four years. Sometimes, you will hear Leap Day, referred to as Bachelor’s Day.

Scotland and England picked up on this tradition but added a twist. They deemed that if a man rejected a woman’s proposal, he had to provide her with several pairs of pretty gloves, which would hide the fact that there was no engagement ring on her finger. However, Greeks considered it bad luck to marry on Leap Day and still take the superstition seriously.


If you are born on Leap Day, you are called a Leapling

This applies to about 5 million people born on February 29 worldwide. The odds of this are 1-in-1,461. These folks technically only get to celebrate their birthdays once every four years, but they still grow one year older yearly. No, ladies, you don’t get to say you are 10 when you celebrate the big 4 0.

Enjoy the extra day this month, and if you know someone whose birthday falls on February 29, throw them a heck of a party. Some people use the extra day to have a Leap Year party anyway, birthday or not.


A special note about the upcoming Solar Eclipse happening in April:

It would be best if you did not watch the solar eclipse without protective glasses. Marshall Public Library wants you to be prepared if you plan to be part of a watch party. They will have a limited supply of Solar Eclipse glasses available free of charge. Get down to the library starting on March 1, and remember that the glasses will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There is a limit of two per family, so you will have to share, and you must bring proof that you are a resident of the City of Marshall or live within the Marshall Area Public Library District.