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February is ending, and with it the end of winter is at last in sight. But before that we’ve got a very rare occasion that only comes around every few years – a Leap Day. As always, we at the Varsity Hotel Cambridge are happy for any excuse to help you celebrate the milestones.

Leap Year

And quite a rare milestone this is. One that only comes around every four years. And if you’ll cast your mind back to exactly four years ago…few of us were in a celebratory mood, shall we say. So in fact it has been eight years since the last time we experienced this event.

So what is a Leap Day? Well, naturally enough we humans measure time based on our planet. One rotation of the Earth is a day, and one rotation of Earth around the sun is a year, 365 days. Except that nature is never so convenient or precise, meaning that a year is not exactly 365 days, but rather approximately 365 days and a quarter.

Now this may not seem like much discrepancy, but over the decades and centuries it can add up. To the point where the date may say October but the weather says mid-winter. Once this discrepancy was discovered the quick and easy solution was to simply bung in another day every four years, to keep everything about right.

Leap Day

The most obvious place to add this extra day has always been at the end of the shortest month of the year – February. Which was the shortest as the Romans considered it to be unlucky, and they created the calendar the West has used every since. With a couple of modifications. Making February 29th the rarest day of the calendar.

Does this really matter though? Well, if you happen to have been born on February 29th, then yes it most certainly does. Because you only get a proper birthday once every four years. Which can lead to all sorts of issues. Plus a slight problem when you ask someone born on a Leap Day how old they are.

Indeed this very issue formed a key point in the classic Gilbert and Sullivan musical Pirates of Penzance. In which a young man born on a Leap Day was placed in bonded service until the day of his 21st birthday. At which point, his bondholder used the Leap Day paradox to claim that he was actually only five years old. Which presented something of a problem for him. But whether you’re getting up to Leap Year related shenanigans old or new, the Varsity Hotel Cambridge is here for you.