[Get your minds out of the gutter. Bissextile means ‘of, or pertaining to,
the leap year or the extra day in the leap year’.]
While our calendar only allows exactly 365 days each year, the earth
actually takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 46 seconds for a complete
orbit of the sun. If we did not add 1 extra day every 4 years, in only 100
years the calendar would be off from the true seasons by 24 days. We’d have
Christmas on Dec 1st!!
So how did this happen?
Romulus invented the early Roman calendar that had 10 months, starting on
what would be March 1 and different amounts of days. Very messy and
About 700 BC Numa Pompillus had two more months tacked on the end of the
calendar, so that each month would be roughly the same and follow the lunar
In 45 BC Julius Caesar saw that the calendar was moving and not aligned with
the seasons. So he decreed every 4 years a single day would be added to that
last day of the year (February 31). He was so vain that he changed the name
of Quintillis to July, after himself. And stole a day from February (end of
the year) to make July 31 days!
His successor Octavian (Caesar Augustus) followed suit, changing Sextillus
to August after himself, and stole another day from poor February to equal
31 days in that month.
Of course, by the mid 1400’s we had too MANY leap years and the calendar was
off again. So a new formula was devised a more complicated plan. Every 4
years a leap year but it must be NOT be divisible evenly by 100 (unless it
can be also divided evenly by 400.then it IS a leap year). Okay. Way
confusing for my pea brain. But 2012 cannot be evenly divided by 100 so we
get a leap year!! Yay!!
*Those born on Feb 29 are called “leaplings”
*Mrs Karin Henrickson in Norway gave birth to children on 3 successive leap
days. A daughter in 1960, and sons in 1964 and 1968
*The Keogh family in Ireland has 3 generations of “leaplings” with the
father born in 1940, son 1964 and granddaughter 1996
*Gals may take the initiative on Feb 29 and ask guys for a date. This was
promoted by Lil Abner comic strip as “Sadie Hawkins” Day
Enjoy today. You won’t see another for 1460 days.
Dr Bob Griffin
“Jesus Knows Me, This I Love!”