Leap year celebrated with hoptastic bunny Google Doodle

29 Feb 2016

It’s the day of unusual engagements and birthdays as we mark a leap year, and we even have a Google Doodle to celebrate.

While it has become a day in which you’re encouraged to do something different, which, in the case of women, includes popping the question to your other half, having a leap year every four years is an important event to restore order to potential chaos.

When looking at the Gregorian calendar used by most societies these days, the extra date of 29 February is needed due to the wonders of the cosmos, our solar system, and the slightly-imperfect nature of the Earth’s rotation around the sun.

Leap Year Google Doodle

Why every four years?

While our calendar year of 365 days is based on how long it takes for our planet to orbit our nearest star, the reality is that Earth doesn’t precisely complete its orbit in this amount of time.

In fact, if you do want to get precise, it takes 365.2422 days for the Earth to orbit the sun, but, interestingly, when it comes to a leap year, it’s not as straightforward as it occurring every four years.

Other rules brought in have meant that a leap year will only occur on a year that is divisible by four, that is unless a year is both divisible by 100, but isn’t divisible by 400.

So why do we add the extra day to February, rather than other months? Well, it all goes back to Roman politics centuries ago when the Roman Empire’s most famous emperor, Julius Caesar, was replaced by Caesar Augustus.

During the time of Julius Caesar’s reign, August only had 29 days, but when Caesar Augustus came to power, he wasn’t going to stand for his own month to be the lesser of the calendar, taking one day from February and another from Julius Caesar’s month, July, as a show of force.

Day off sound good?

If, like pretty much everyone, you’re at work today, you might be slightly miffed that today you’re technically working for free as it’s an extra day, prompting some groups to call for it being a day off. Hear, hear!

As for today’s Google Doodle, Google has decided to go with the rather adorable cartoon bunny rabbits, with one of the leaping furry creatures barging its way into our calendar.

Explaining the background to the Doodle, Google says the illustrator, Olivia Huynh, went with a few concepts prior to today’s final one, contemplating one with the equally familiar leaper, the frog.

Frog gif

Leap year image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic