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GloPro's avatar

What's up with Leap Years?

Asked by GloPro (8394points) March 1st, 2014
24 responses
“Great Question” (1points)

Leap Years were solidified by the year 1582, and since then we’ve had to reset our calendar to match the sun. What would we do without it?

Could I handle being a few days older? What if you’re born on the 29th? What if winter didn’t start the same day every year in the Northern Hemisphere? Would we know when to have the Olympics? Would it effect springing forward or falling back? Does the whole world acknowledge Leap Year, and if so, how in the heck did we get the whole world to agree on anything?

How does Leap Year effect you, and does it really matter?

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cazzie's avatar

Leap Year matters. If you paid attention in Earth Science class you know that the orbit of the Earth around the sun isn’t an exact amount of rotations of the Earth ie. Days. Our calenders have to be adjusted to match up. If we didn’t do this. the star constellations wouldn’t match our calenders, and our seasons would start to drift out of the expected months and equinox and solstice would end up all over in our calenders. We can’t have that! Leap year IS observed around the world and of course every one agrees on it because we know about the Earth’s rotation around the sun. As for the changing of the clocks on a seasonal basis, often known as ‘Daylight Savings’ that does differ from region to region and it is based on the daylight hours and making the most of them. I live at 63N latitude, and our daylight savings is observed at a different time than most of the US.

GloPro's avatar

What about the Chinese calendar or the Jewish calendar? Those communities still use the Gregorian calendar to interact with the rest of the world in modern times, but base holidays and so forth on a separate calendar. Those calendars are not dependant upon the earth taking 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 12 seconds to orbit the sun. In fact, many second and third world countries don’t follow the Gregorian calendar.

The Gregorian calendar is also known as the Western calendar or the Christian calendar.

So yes, I paid attention in science class and understand why it was set up that way. I’m asking why it really matters. So the constellations can be more easily predicted? It wouldn’t effect anything in your lifetime as far as seasonal shifts, really, being that 97 years out of every 400 are leap years. It would take a century to alter the seasons by one month, and global warming is changing seasons way faster than that. Even then, who cares what season it is? It’s summer every Christmas in the lower hemisphere, and they haven’t lost their minds over it.

ucme's avatar

My son was born Feb 27th in a leap year, just two days later & he’d have only celebrated a genuine birthday every four years, guess i’d have saved a helluva lot of money, but that’s maybe a tad selfish.

Seek's avatar

The measurement of time is necessary in order to interact in modern society.

If you and I organized a lunch date, and I showed up at high sun and you at 12:00 pm, depending on the time of year one of us would be waiting quite a long time.

GloPro's avatar

Haha, when have you ever agreed to meet someone at “high sun?”

side note, if you didn’t check out the link for Western calendar above, you might find it interesting, @Seek_Kolinahr. The calendar was globally accepted because Roman Catholics insisted that Easter line up with solstice. In the end, the Christians defined the internationally accepted global calendar.

cazzie's avatar

We should really think about time-keeping beyond our own lifetimes.

downtide's avatar

Easter is the first Sunday following the first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox. You don’t get much more pagan than that.

whitenoise's avatar


Shouldn’t that be 365 days 6 hours and 9.1626 minutes?

GloPro's avatar

@whitenoise Good catch, and it used to be until the religious got involved. Again, go back to this link. In 1582 the Roman Catholics demanded a fine tuning of the Gregorian calendar to align Easter with the Spring Equinox, as mentioned by @downtide. It was then that they shaved off from the time you quoted.

On this site they also mention 30 other calendars used throughout the world today. They don’t care about lining up the seasons… The Gregorian (Christian/Western/Julian) calendar was accepted by the United Nations, with Greece being the last to adopt it in 1923. That wasn’t that long ago, considering the Christians began pushing for this universal calendar in 1582!

So I contend, that other than the usefulness of planning travel and import/export business worldwide, there is no use for the Leap Year. Even then, we could still travel and all use the same dates without throwing in the extra calendar day every 4 years. So I ask you, as non-believers, and scientists, is there a use for Leap Year, or have we all just fallen in line like sheep?

dxs's avatar

Because of leap years, my grandmother celebrated her “Sweet 16” back in 2012.

dxs (15160points)“Great Answer” (1points)
Pachy's avatar

@GloPro, you may not believe leap years matter, but a bit of online rsearch will tell you why they do.

By the way, oneline research will also tell you why, in your last sentence, “affect” is the verb to use rather than the noun “effect.” ;-)

GloPro's avatar

Thanks. You know, I always struggle with affect vs. effect. I also still struggle with my left and my right. Stupid, I know, but true.

According to your online research tab, the only use for Leap Year (other than making sure Easter lines up with equinox) is to help us “rationalize the passage of time,” and that it would take 700 years for Christmas to fall in the summer for the Northern Hemisphere, which I already mentioned. Big deal. It would still be December 25th. Again, where I live the snowfall, usually correlating to the winter season, has been coming later and later every year anyway (global warming? Another topic all together.). So why aren’t we changing the calendar to realign winter and “better rationalize the seasons?”

Your online research also contends that we won’t be using this calendar in 1,000 years anyway, which further supports my thought that it honestly doesn’t much matter.

cazzie's avatar

@GloPro, do you like astrology?

zenvelo's avatar

@GloPro You mention Asian and Hebraic calendars; did you know they have Leap Months? That’s how they realign their calendars with the seasons, why Chinese New Year and Tet are always around the first part of February, give or take a week or two.

Yes, it does take centuries for things to get out of whack, but 1500 years CE meant things were really out of whack when Gregory redid the calendar.

It seems to me, you really have no use for a calendar at all, since it seems arbitrary to you and that in your mind Leap Days are only some OCD focused thing on keeping things aligned.

GloPro's avatar

@zenvelo I have no reason to know what day or time it is in general right now, it’s true. But I do think this is interesting.
@cazzie It’s interesting and fun, but I don’t believe in it.

I also discovered the reason it will become obsolete may be in part because the Earth is slowing down, and every year our calendar is a little more out of whack. One day every four years isn’t good enough. They add seconds here and there, too, apparently. I don’t know how we manage to keep up.

I don’t see it changing, I’m not that dumb. I just think we’re all so used to it we feel we have to have it that way. We don’t.

I also think it’s funny that everyone gets so adamant there is no God but we are all so heavily influenced by the Christians, ultimately. No one has satisfactorily given me a scientific reason for it’s necessity, that’s all. Sure, I will say that if the only reasons we created it are to “rationalize time” and celebrate Easter more appropriately then maybe it did come about because of OCD. People in Alaska don’t get confused that it’s dark for 6 months and snows every month of the year.

El_Cadejo's avatar

“I also think it’s funny that everyone gets so adamant there is no God but we are all so heavily influenced by the Christians, ultimately”

Tangentially to that, look at the year we’re in. Then again it’s a bit easier to say 2014 rather than ~4,540,000,000.

kritiper's avatar

You might find it interesting as to how noon on the 18th of November, 1883 affected time on a global scale.

GloPro's avatar

@kritiper Fascinating, thank you! I love random stuff like that.

bea2345's avatar

Well, now I know what happened on 18th of November, 1883. Perhaps it is true that you need Google if you want to know what is the best Pizza Hut on Pluto.

Seek's avatar

I don’t particularly care what system people use to measure time, as long as we can all agree on it.

The Gregorian calendar is close enough. If I made up my own calendar, it wouldn’t do me much good, since a calendar is only useful if it’s mutually accepted.

GloPro's avatar

It’s nice to see that you accept religion in some fashion. I can’t wait until @KNOWITALL sees this. She hasn’t bothered to look, and I won’t tell :-p

JLeslie's avatar

@GloPro The Jewish calendar has a leap month. You think that is a better system? I like that we Jews hold onto our calendar, but really it doesn’t seem like the most effective way to keep track of the year. It’s 12 months and then every few years (I don’t remember how many) they add in a 13th month to shift everything back into place. The shift is really a jolt. Every year Chanukah and Passover, and all the other holidays move earlier and earlier in the year, moving away from the time of year (climate) they are meant to be in. Then the 13th month is added to correct the slide. If they didn’t add the leap month we would have holidays that are meant to celebrate the harvest in the fall moving towards summer and then spring and winter.

GloPro's avatar

Meh, I don’t think there is a ‘better’ calendar. I just started looking into Leap Years and learned a lot about them, so I wanted to share. What I learned is that they aren’t really needed, unless we’re creatures of habit driven by OCD, and I accept that. Half the shit I do is based on that theory already.

Seek's avatar

Humans are driven to celebration.

We’ve had harvest festivals since we first figured out that certain food comes to fruit at certain times each season cycle. We’ve celebrated Midwinter ever since we realised that’s when the sun starts coming back each winter.

It helps us get through life on this spinning rock.

In ancient times, it was important to know when the seasons began, so they could sow crops at the right time. If you sow certain crops right before a frost – guess what? No harvest. Sadface.

The lunar calendar was an obvious choice for people in antiquity. The moon changed predictably, and did so right about 12 times a year, give or take. But even the Sumerians realised that it wasn’t exactly 12 times, so once in a while they added a month to make up the difference. Also, every six years they added an extra month of 62 days. Theirs, the first known calendar system had 12 months of 29 or 30 days, each beginning with the sighting of the new moon. They didn’t keep “weeks”, but since it’s nice to coordinate your High Holy Days, they all occurred on the first, seventh, and fifteenth days of each month.

They also had “hours” – they divided the day into 12 hours: Each hour was one sixth of the day or one-sixth of the night. In the winter, day hours were shorter than during the summer.

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