Leaping Leap Years!

Published 11:02 am Monday, March 1, 2021

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By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith/ Community Columnist

This weekend marks a unique time for mankind and our ability (or inability) to measure time accurately. Although 2021 does not have a “Leap Day,” it is nonetheless a year that is counted as part of the four-year measure that makes up our calendar. The need for Leap Day comes from the Earth’s 365.242189 day rotation around the Sun – which makes up a year. The rotation time for the calendar is rounded to 365 days, which leaves an extra quarter day at the end of each year. Every four years, Leap Day occurs to balance out the extra day that has accumulated and that is unaccounted for in the calendar- Feb. 29.

Before Earth became interconnected with world-wide trade, cultures had their own individual calendars and unique systems for keeping time. The ancient Egyptians measured time by dividing the year into 12 months of 30 days. They added the five extra days to the end of the year and then celebrated with a week-long festival. Julius Caesar even tried “the Year of Confusion” in 46 B.C. that was 455 days long in hopes of balancing out the divergence of seasons that had occurred.

The difference of 365 days comparable to 365.242189 may not seem important but over the course of hundreds of years, seasons become unbalanced. Every 100 years, Leap Year is skipped, unless it is divisible by 400. The next Leap Year that will be skipped will be 2100.

The most modern change to the leap year calendar was in 1752, when Great Britain decided to change to the Gregorian calendar.  Sept. 2 was followed by Sept. 14 and New Year’s Day was changed from March 25 to Jan. 1.

Clanton resident Lana Hardwick was born on Leap Day, which means her birthday only comes once every four years.

“Especially now that I am older, I tell people how old I am in leap years,” jokes Hardwick.

Even though Hardwick’s birthday, Feb. 29 will not happen this year she usually selects the most convenient day closest to her birthday to celebrate with family. This year she will celebrate her 14.25th birthday on the Feb. 28 (in more conventional terms she will turn 57).