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Leap day 2016 promises overdue birthday cakes and big leaps

February 29, 2016 - WORLD

The four-year wait for a birthday is over in 2016, a leap year, for the countless people around the world born on Feb 29, and for the many who have targeted the day for their big leap.

It's a day for leap day people to blame the irregularity in the Solar System that causes them to miss so many birthdays, for women to propose marriage to men and for anything else that will feel like taking the plunge.

In a report about leap year 2012, the BBC expounded the possible origins of the tradition of women proposing on leap day. One refers to the time when the day was not recognized under English law. As it had no legal status, it was acceptable to break with the convention of a man proposing. The broadcaster asked listeners about their big leap plans in 2012. The replies included the mundane and the novel, like scattering the ashes of a loved one after a long procrastination, taking up the hula hoop or getting a tattoo.

The mainstream accounts of the day explain that one Earth year, a complete orbit around the Sun, does not take an exact number of whole days. Every four years, an additional day is added to calendars to make up for the inaccuracy. Roman emperor Julius Caesar took a hand creating a system that accommodated the irregularity, and Pope Gregory XIII and his astronomers refined it with the Gregorian calendar in 1582.

Leap year: 10 things about 29 February (BBC 1 Feb 2012)

Leap Year: How the World Makes Up for Lost Time (National Geographic 28 Feb 2008)

My birthday feels like a cosmic joke (Daily Mail 29 Feb 2012)

Date written/update: 2015-05-07