A Flag for Leap Day?

John Hartvigsen


The time it takes earth to move around the sun fails to exactly match the 365 days we have allowed on the calendar.  Since earth’s orbit take about 1/4th day longer, we add a day every four years to keep seasons from creeping out of alignment with calendar dates.  This review appears each Leap Year as we approach Leap Day, and Saturday, February 29 of 2020 is an added Leap Day.

Is there a flag to represent Leap Year or Leap Day?  No, not exactly, at least I haven’t found one. However, I have discovered one flag that visually depicts earth’s relationship to time and space.  It is one of many flags designed to represent Planet Earth, but this flag seems to capture something worth thinking about.

Some proposed designs for a flag to represent planet earth.

There have been many efforts to design a flag representing earth:

  • the United Nations flag with its global map and surrounding laurel leaf wreathe;
  • a flag design showing a photograph of earth taken from space that I call the “Blue Marble Flag”;
  • a flag designs showing interlocking rings
  • flags including a procession of national flags
  • several designs showing of the sun, earth and moon.

Philip Kanellopoulos designed this Earth Flag in 2004, which he describes as follows, “The image is of a flag representing Earth, her diverse communities of people, and all of her forms of life.” 

Philip Kanellopoulos’ Earth Flag shows our place in the universe, which relates to how motion in our solar system that governs how we measure time.  The earth’s orbit around the sun determines a year; the earth’s tilt on its axis gives us seasons; the rotation of the moon apparent by its phases fixes twelve months; and the rotation of the earth separates night from day and defines our measured day,

Intriguingly, we observe that the time measurements fit neatly together.  These measurements may not fit patterns exactly; however, they come very close and fit the world’s needs nicely.  A year divides into twelve lunar months that figure out only half a day off at 30½ days. We only need to add or subtract a day or two to make it work out.  Our seven-day week divides the solar year into 52 weeks, which is a mere 2/100th of off an exact 52.  Significant to leap year, dividing a solar year into 365.25 days is only 0.00368493 of a day from being exact.  All of these figures are pretty darn close.

Kanellopoulos’ flag depicts the sun as largest in the solar system with the moon’s rotations shown by its phases and the earth’s rotations clear by division of day and night.  The flag, like Leap Year and Leap Day, reminds us of our place in time and in the universe.   We could hoist this flag on Leap Day to celebrate the calendar which serves us so well.



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