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We get an extra day once every four years. Use it wisely.

New Year’s resolutions are a terrific way to focus your goals and help you commit to the simple daily changes you can make to improve your life. But can they effectively bring about long-term change? This year, you get one more day to find out. 2012 is a leap year, and that one extra day in February hosts a surprising number of fascinating opportunities.

It is nothing new to say that February 29 is a special day. There have been periodic adjustments to existing calendars since the ancient Egyptians noticed that the lunar year and the man-made calendar didn’t quite match up. In fact, the lunar year is 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds longer than a standard 365 days.

The Romans first designated February 29 as a leap day every four years to make up the gap but the most precise formula (still used today) was adopted when the Gregorian calendar included an additional day in years divisible by four. The actual rule states that years that are divisible by 100 are not leap years, unless they are also divisible by 400. Although 2000 was a leap year, 1900 was not. In addition, 2100, 2200, and 2300 will not be leap years either. This rule makes up for the remaining 11 minutes and 14 seconds for which the Gregorian calendar otherwise overcompensates.

Regardless of the official rules that govern which year is actually a leap year, February 29 has been a celebrated day for quite a long time. As will all celebrated days, there are some unique traditions, rules and events that take place only in a leap year.

In France, there is a newspaper publication called La Bourgie du Sapeur (The Candle of the Sapper in English) that is dedicated to a humorous look at current news. Founded in 1980, this paper has only published eight editions to date, including a special Sunday edition that is only published once every 28 years. Subscriptions to the paper are sold by the century and currently cost £100. There are 200,000 copies of each edition printed and the proceeds are donated to charity (in 2008 they went to a charity dedicated to autism).

February 29 is the day of the year (or four years) when it is considered acceptable for women to propose to men. Although times have changed and modern society is more accepting of female-initiated marriage proposals, nonetheless more women propose to men on February 29 than on any other day of the year. This tradition is traced back to 5th century Ireland when St. Patrick set February 29 as the day when a woman had the right to ask for a man’s hand in marriage. In fact, in 1288 Queen Margaret took the tradition one step further when she declared that menfolk who refused a proposal were faced with a fine.

There is a growing trend of believing February 29 to be the best time to make a life-changing resolution. Some people call this a Leap Year Resolution, and others refer to it as a No Year Resolution (although the latter isn’t dedicated to February 29). Even though people may call it different things, the consensus is that it takes more than a single year to make a substantial change in the course of your life, and four years is a better timeline. Since this year is a leap year, it may be the best opportunity to start making plans for whatever you want to accomplish during the next four years and write them down (so you are committed).

These are just a few of many different interesting and unique things that are happening during the leap year, and there are numerous smaller events happening this year as well. If you know of any interesting things going on regarding February 29, please post it below and share with our entire community.


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