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OU celebrates Leap Day, its history

Once every four years, the calendar adds an extra day, making the year 366 days long. 2024 is a leap year, and Thursday marks the extra “Leap Day.” 

Many don’t know the reason for its occurrence and just treat this as any other, but, Leap Day has an extensive background filled with superstitions and traditions.

The main reason leap years occur is because it takes 365.2422 days for Earth to complete one revolution around the sun. Normal, or “common” years, round this number down to 365 days. 

According to the National Air and Space Museum, adding an extra day to the calendar with the leftover five hours, 48 minutes and 56 seconds is necessary. If this did not happen, the seasons would change, and after about 700 years, summers in the northern hemisphere would take place in December instead of June.

Leap Day traces back to the ancient Romans when Julius Caesar adjusted the calendar to align with the sun. After this, Pope Gregory XIII implemented the system where all years that can be divided by four are leap years, except for century years.

The reason a leap year is not every four years is due to rounding again; by adding a leap day every four years, the calendar is extended by around 44 minutes. This would cause the seasons to drift again, so there is no leap year if the year is divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400, also thought of as a century year indivisible by four.

However, leap years are not just about the science behind them. Different cultures have customs or superstitions associated with the extra day. For example, in Chinese culture, leap years mark the Year of the Wood Dragon, promising authority and success for the year. 

For other regions, leap years bring about an unlucky fortune. In Greek and Ukrainian folklore, there is a common belief that if you get married during a leap year, the marriage will ultimately end in divorce.

There are also traditions that take place around the world on Leap Day. One of which is in Irish culture; according to legend, St. Brigid of Kildare and St. Patrick agreed that women should propose to men on Leap Day instead of the traditional other way around. This is believed to balance out gender roles in a similar way that leap years balance out the calendar.

To celebrate the momentous occasion of Leap Day, the Center for Student Engagement and Leadership put on an event on the third floor of Baker University Center. Here, students could create a four-year vision board and fold origami while enjoying frog-themed desserts and pudding cups.

Josh Gruenke, Director of Student Organization Programs, helps students start their own organizations and was one of the planners of the event. 

“We have a student group that helps our office come up with program ideas and they wanted to do something to celebrate Leap Day,” Gruenke said.

Norah Leflore, a sophomore studying interior architecture, was one of the attendees of the event, celebrating her “fifth” birthday. She was born Feb. 29, 2004, so today is the fifth time she has been able to celebrate her birthday on the actual day.

“I like to celebrate, go out and live it up (for Leap Day),” Leflore said. “Especially with the way time goes, I’m going to be younger for longer.”

The four-year vision board posed the question, “Where do you see yourself in 2028?” Some of the answers included “getting my first job post-grad,” “in my first year of teaching” and “on the beach.”

Whether Bobcats go big for Leap Day or do nothing at all, 2024 has an extra day to reflect on the past, make new goals and spend time with loved ones.


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