Leap day babies and couples married on February 29 can get in free to English Heritage’s Hadrian’s Wall sites this weekend.
The offer – for which visitors must produce a valid birth or marriage certificate – is valid for February 25-26 and is being made to celebrate the leap year and its Roman origins with the Julian calendar.
And for a limited period, people can also download a voucher from English Heritage’s website giving them 50% off a second trip to one of the conservation groups Hadrian’s Wall properties. The two visits must be made between February 25 and March 25 this year.
Both offers apply to Chesters and Birdoswald forts, Corbridge Roman Town and Carlisle Castle, all of which are open every winter weekend.
Leap Day has long held a mystical significance. It’s an extra, or intercalary, day added every four years in our modern Gregorian calendar.
Introduced over 2,000 years ago with the transition from the Roman calendar to the Julian version in 45BCE (before common-era), Leap Day quickly became associated with age-old traditions and customs.
The original Roman calendar is believed to have been a lunar one which may have been based on one of the Greek almanacs.
As the time between new moons averages 29.5 days, its months were constructed to be either hollow (29 days) or full (30 days).
Full months were considered powerful and therefore auspicious; hollow months were unlucky. Unlike currently used dates, which are numbered sequentially from the beginning of the month, the Romans counted backwards from three fixed points: the Nones, the Ides and the Kalends of the following month.
This system originated in the practice of “calling” the new month when the lunar crescent was first observed in the west after sunset. From the shape and orientation of the new moon, the number of days remaining to the nones would be proclaimed.
The Julian months were formed by adding 10 days to a regular pre-Julian Roman year of 355 days. This created the regular Julian year of 365 days.
Two extra days were added to Ianuarius–Sextilis (later to be renamed Augustus) and December, and one extra to Aprilis, Iunius, September and November.
Februarius was not changed in ordinary years, and so continued to be the traditional 28 days. Thus, the ordinary, non-leap year, lengths of all of the months were set by the Julian calendar to the same values they still hold today.
To download the 50% off voucher go to www.englishheritage.org/hadrianswalldiscount
Read more about Hadrian’s Wall.