Facts You Probably Don’t Need

These Facts You Probably Don’t Need are reprinted from the February 27, 2020 issue of the Rockaway Times.


  • The solar year is approximately 365.2422 days long and ignoring that small fraction creates a much bigger problem than one might expect. Which is exactly why we now have a leap year.


  • The concept of “Leap Years” started when Julius Caesar decided it was time to reform the calendar which had fallen out of sync with the seasons.


  • To fix the problem, Julius Caesar decided on a single, 445-day-long “Year of Confusion” in 46BCE to correct the years of slow drift in one go. This marked the last year of the Pre-Julian Roman Calendar and the start of the Julian Roman Calendar which included a leap day every fourth year similar to what we think of today. This made the average year 365.25 days long.


  • This, however, did not work either as .25 is a slight over correction of the actual .2422 leftover in the solar year making the calendar year around 11 minutes shorter than the solar year. This makes the two calendars off from each other by an entire day every 129 years.
  • By the time of Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, important dates and holidays were seeing discrepancies of around ten days forcing him to release the now almost universally used Gregorian Calendar.


  • To correct the issues of the past 1600 years, the new calendar dropped 10 days from the month of October in 1582.


  • To prevent the same issue that was just corrected from happening again, the Gregorian Calendar decided that moving forward, now bear with me, leap years that are divisible by 100, like the year 1900, are skipped. That is unless they are also divisible by 400, like the year 2000, in which case they are observed.


  •  So in short, every 400 years three leap days are dropped and that is what keeps the calendar on time.


  •  This INSANE “solution” puts the calendar year at just a half a minute longer than the solar year. That means it will take 3,300 years before the Gregorian Calendar will be off by a day from our seasonal cycle meaning that future generations will have to make yet another decision on how to handle the leap year.


Facts by Sean McVeigh,  facto­logist.

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