This week, being a leap year, we will have February 29th, then it will be four more years until it comes around again. A leap year is when an extra day is added to the month of February. Generally it happens once every four years but it’s more complicated than that so read on.
In simple terms, it’s because our year is based on 365 days whereas a complete orbit of the earth around the sun takes exactly 365.242 days. Leap years of 366 days are added as a means of keeping our calendars in line with the Earth’s passage. The Roman calendar had 355 days with an extra 22 day month every two years, until Julius Caesar decided on a 365 day year with an extra day every four years to correct for the extra hours. The name “leap year” comes from the fact that normally a fixed date advances one day of the week from one year to the next. So if Christmas Day was a Saturday this year it will be a Sunday next year. Because of the extra day of the week in a leap we are “leaping over” so that a fixed date will now follow on 2 days after the previous year. Got it? Not quite you haven’t. There’s a leap year every year that is divisible by four, except for years that are both divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400. The year 2000 was a leap year, but the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. As an earth year is not exactly 365.25 days long, astronomers advising Pope Gregory decided to lose three days every 400 years when they introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582.
If you are born on February 29th , you will have only celebrated five birthdays when you reach the age of Twenty One – weird isn’t it? Over four million people worldwide have been born on the 29th. But it’s not all bad news for “leaplings”, or “leapers” as people with this birthday are known. Some companies will give freebies to you on your birthday. For example, “Pizza Hut has been the site of many, many birthday parties through the years, and since Leaplings only get to celebrate their true birthdays every four years, we wanted to make their day special and help them honor their birthdays in a big way,” Pizza Hut spokesman Doug Terfehr said in a statement. We at Funzee will give a 50% discount on one of our adult onesies to any leapling who wants to claim it; how about our frog animal onesie to help you leap forward? Amongst famous leaplings is Rap and hip-hop artist Ja Rule best known for his duets with female R&B artists in the early 2000’s including the songs “I’m Real” with Jennifer Lopez and “Mesmerize” with Ashanti. The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, is a free membership birthday club for people born on February 29th. Over 10,000 people from all over the world have joined since the website was launched in 1997. If you can make it to Anthony, on the border of Texas and New Mexico, there is four-day leap year festival held each leap year that includes a huge birthday party for all leaplings.
Also of note, the Olympic Games are always held in a leap year – Rio in Brazil is busy getting ready this year. Our presidential elections are held every four years, in a leap year – you may have noticed the primaries under way. Just four more years to the next one. And don’t forget that February 29th is the date when women are traditionally allowed to propose marriage although this may seem a little dated in our enlightened times. Apparently, in Denmark, if a man turns down a proposal they must give the woman 12 pairs of gloves and in Finland the penalty is fabric for a skirt, and in the USA the woman gets to punch you in the face. Worth waiting four more years?