Sunday, 14 February 2016

Leap Year

aka: Of course I have three copies of Brewers

Twenty years ago today, 14 February 1996, I proposed to my now-husband. After all, it was a leap year, and I was entirely within my rights. It was, and remains, the best question I have ever asked anyone ever.

Really, Zazzle? Really?!?


Per Brewer's
It is an old saying that during leap year the ladies may propose, and, if not accepted, claim a silk gown. A Scottish law of 1288 says that "during the rein of hir maist blissit Megeste, for ilke yeare knowne as lepe yeare, ilk mayden ladye ... shal hae liberte, to bespeke ye man she like, albeit he refuses to taik hir to be his lawful wyfe, he shall be mulcted in ye sum of ane pundis ..." There was a similar law passed in France and it became legal custom in Genoa and Florence in the 15th century.
From the 14th edition, printed 1990

And we all know that leap years happen every four years, except if the year is divisible by 100, unless the year is divisible by 400. Which is why the years 1900 and 2100 are not leap years, but the year 2000 was. And because I'm extra nerdy, when working out the age of someone using Excel, I divide the number of days by 365.24.

So why is it called a leap year?
In an ordinary year, the day of the month that falls on a Monday will fall on a Tuesday next year, and Wednesday the year after. But on the fourth year, it will leap over Thursday to Friday, due to the extra day added to February.

Random extra fact

Those three leap days omitted from each 400 years is the main difference between the Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull decreeing that ten days were to be dropped from the calendar, so as to realign it with the solar year. It took until 1752 for the Brits to decide that yes, okay, fair enough. (It took the US and Canada that long too). By then, they were 11 days out of synch. So it went 1 September, 2 September, 14 September...

The first day of the financial year in the UK used to be "Lady Day", the date of the annunciation, 25 March. There were riots and protests by the people as they were being expected to pay a full year's worth of taxes for something less than a full year. Rather than accept less tax, the Treasury instead moved the start of the financial year forward eleven days to 5 April. A further day's concession was made when there was no leap day in the year 1800, bringing the start of the tax year to 6 April, where it has remained ever since.

And that is why, boys and girls, the UK tax year starts on 6 April. (I told you I was an accountant!)

And here's a reference for you. And none to the Pirates of Penzance.

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