History Leap Years Sunrise

Published on February 28th, 2020 | by Sam Rose

The Origin of Leap Years

2020 marks another leap year – but how did leap years originate and which historical figure was responsible for creating them? Find out in our latest article on Post Office Shop Blog!

Normally, a full year in the calendar would collectively total 365 days, with four seasons taking place throughout – spring, summer, autumn and winter.

But what we’ve come to refer to as leap years, occur every four years, and during years that can be evenly divided by 4.

Leap years contain an extra day, that being 366 days and this extra day occurs in the month of February, meaning that during leap years, February has 29 days instead of 28.

It’s interesting then, when we learnt as to who helped originate leap years, with the event occurring during Roman times.

Who Created Leap Years?

As Thought Co reveals, it was Julius Caesar who is referred to as the ‘Father of the Leap Year’.

Initially, the early Romans attempt to solve the issue of ensuring that traditional festivals would occur in the same season each year.

The issue was that back in Roman times, calendars were known to only contain 355 days, meaning that a 22 or a 23-day month had to be created during every second year.

The process was considered quite complex and confusing, so it was Julius Caesar who decided to simplify the transition by adding days to different months of the year.

This in turn, helped to create the 365-day calendar, with much of the mathematics and important calculations being credited to Caesar’s astronomer, Sosigenes.

Sosigenes’ method meant that from then on, every fourth year following the 28th day of Februarius (the 29th of February), one extra day was added in the month, which is why we now officially recognise every 4 years as being leap years.

An Exception to the Rule

Just to confuse matters a little further however, it turns out that there is an exception to the rule which will occur during century years (like the year 1900).

This was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, who helped to further revise the calendar with a new ruling relating to years that were divisible by 4.

Due to 1990 being slightly less than 365.25 days long, following the standard rule of it becoming a leap year and then adding an extra day every 4 years would actually create 3 extra days over a 400-year period.

It’s due to this anomaly that century years are only considered as a leap year if they are evenly divisible by 400.

That means that 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, but 1600 and 2000 were.

Interestingly, 2100 will also not be classed as a leap year.

A Year for Superb Special Stamps

James Bond Special Stamps Presentation Pack Image

But before we start to look at any more leap years occurring in the future, we should try to remain in the present year of 2020, which marks another fantastic year for Royal Mail’s Special Stamp issues.

Featuring a great blend of historical significance, important anniversaries, celebrations of classic TV shows and films and everything else in between, the Special Stamps Calendar for 2020 is shaping up to contain some of Royal Mail’s most fascinating designs yet.

Whether it’s taking a voyage of outer space with Visions of the Universe, taking a trip back in time to gaming paradise with Video Games or celebrating 25 years of 007 films with James Bond (out on the 17th March), it’s no exaggeration to say that the 2020 Special Stamps calendar really does have something for everyone!

Why not take a look at our dedicated guide to each month’s Special Stamps release here and view some of the older Special Stamps issues over on the Post Office Shop website?

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sam.rose@evo-group.co.uk'



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