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February 29

February 29 is the 60th day of a leap year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 306 days remaining. A year which has a February 29 is, by definition, a leap year. This date only occurs approximately every four years, in years evenly divisible by 4, such as 1992, 1996, or 2004, with some exceptions in century years.

A century year, that is, a year which ends in two zeros (1800, 1900, 2000, etc.), is not a leap year unless it is also evenly divisible by 400. This means that the year 2000 was a leap year and 2400 will also be one, but 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, and the years 2100, 2200, and 2300 will not be leap years either.

Because of this, a leap day is more likely to fall on a Monday than on a Sunday. If, for example, February 29th falls on a Sunday, you would expect it to fall on Sunday again after 28 years, but if there's a century year in these 28 years, the pattern can become disrupted. The Gregorian calendar repeats itself every 400 years, and 400 years have 97 leap days, which is not divisible by seven, so these days can never be distributed evenly. A leap day on a Sunday occurs 13 times in these 400 years, so approximately every 30.8 years, a Monday however occurs 15 times, which is roughly every 26.7 years.

Those who are born on this day usually celebrate their birthdays on February 28 during non-leap years. In the comic musical The Pirates of Penzance, Frederic, born on February 29, was apprenticed to a band of pirates until his 21st birthday, in theory until he was 84 years old.

This day may be colloquially termed a leap day, though in the Roman calendar it was February 24 in a leap year which was added, giving the name of "bissextile" day or extra sixth day in the lead up to the 'Calends' of March. The Romans, realizing the need for an extra day, chose February 24th in particular only because it followed the last day of their year, which at that point in history was, of course, February 23rd. In the European Union, February 29 only officially became the leap day in 2000.

There is a tradition that women may make a proposal of marriage to men only on February 29; this is a tightening of an older tradition that such proposals may only occur on leap years. In 1288 the Scottish parliament legislated that any woman could propose in Leap Year. The man may, of course, refuse but, by tradition, he should soften the blow by providing a kiss, one pound currency and a pair of gloves (some later sources say a silk gown). This law was adopted in France, Switzerland and Italy and the tradition was carried to America.

In Al Capp's comic strip Li'l Abner, a similar custom called "Sadie Hawkins Day" was commemorated on or around November 9 each year. On Sadie Hawkins Day, in the hillbilly town of Dogpatch, a race was held for spinsters, in pursuit of all the local bachelors who must marry if caught. 'Sadie Hawkin's Day' functions are still held in some places, and by association with the older tradition, sometimes now occur on or around February 29.

In France, there is an humorous periodical called la Bougie du sapeur (the sapper's candle) edited every February 29 since 1980. The name is a reference to the sapeur Camenbert . In 2004, the first number of la bougie du sapeur - Dimanche is edited. The eighth issue of the periodic will be edited in 2008.





Holidays and observances

  • Bahá'í Faith - Day 4 of Ayyám-i-Há (Intercalary Days) (in leap years only) - days in the Bahá'í calendar devoted to service and gift giving.
  • Discordianism - St. Tib's Day.

External links

February 28 - (February 30) - March 1 - January 29 - March 29 -- listing of all days

Last updated: 10-12-2005 13:16:29
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