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Cat in the Stax: Leap Year

As Falvey’s Cat in the Stax, Rebecca writes articles covering a broad range of topics, from academics to hobbies to random events. All the while highlighting how Falvey Library can enhance your Villanova experience!

Happy Wednesday, Wildcats! March is almost here, which means spring break is right around the corner! I wish you all a safe, relaxing, and fun week off. Enjoy it, I know I will!

I don’t know how many of you noticed, but this year is a leap year! That means this year will last 366 days and the month of February is 29 days instead of the usual 28.

Fun Fact: Did you know that Ireland has an old tradition where women can propose to their boyfriends on Leap Day, Feb. 29? This day is known as either “Bachelor’s Day” or “Ladies Privilege.” Not only that, but according to Irish folklore, any man who rejects a proposal must compensate the woman with a gift—either a kiss, a silk gown, or gloves. This tradition is the premise for the 2010 movie Leap Year, starring Amy Adams, which you can get through Falvey’s Interlibrary Loan Program.

Image by wongmbatuloyo from


But why do we have leap years? Basically, the purpose of a leap year is to keep our calendars aligned with Earth’s revolution around the Sun. We attribute one year to the amount of time it takes for the Earth to make a complete revolution. The Gregorian Calendar has 365 days in a single year, but in reality, it takes Earth approximately 365.242189 days to circle the Sun, which leaves an extra 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds unaccounted for in our calendar. That means we’re getting behind Earth’s orbit by almost 6 hours every year, so we add a day every few years to make up for this extra time.


People tend to think leap years occur every four years, but this is actually not true! Julius Caesar, the Roman General who first introduced the concept into western calendars, established the formula that a leap year should occur every four years. However, this led to too many leap years in the Julian Calendar which placed religious holidays out of sync with fixed dates such as equinoxes and solstices by several days. Pope Gregory XIII developed his own calendar, the Gregorian Calendar, in 1582 to fix this error. His new formula determines whether a leap year should occur based on three criteria:

  1. The year must be divisible by four
  2. If the year can be evenly divided by 100, then it is not a leap year; UNLESS
  3. The year is also evenly divisible by 400—then it is a leap year

So there you have it, the long and somewhat complex history and understanding of leap years boiled down into a few paragraphs. An occasional event that we all take for granted has some interesting history and a bunch of science behind its origin.

Rebecca Amrick

Rebecca Amrick is a first-year graduate student in the English Department and a Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.



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Last Modified: February 28, 2024

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