This year, we all get an extra day: Feb. 29 is leap day, that bonus day that happens every four years.
Why a leap year? There are actually 365.242190 days a year, so to compensate for the extra time, every four years we add an extra day, otherwise the calendar would eventually not synchronize with the seasons and in 700 years, winter would be summer, and summer, winter.
- If you were born on Feb. 29, you’re known as a “leaper” or a “leapling.” You can also join the Honor Society of Leap Year Babies. There are about four million people in the world who are leap year babies.
- Although the ancient Egyptians discovered that the calendar didn’t work without an extra day added, it was 3,000 years later that the ancient Romans officially added the extra day in the Roman calendar. Julius Caesar became known as the Father of Leap Year by ensuring that the calendar remained aligned with the solar calendar and seasons.
- How to determine if a certain year will be a leap year? If this year is…
- Divisible by 4 and not divisible by 100, it’s a leap year.
- Divisible by 100 but not divisible by 400, it is NOT a leap year.
- Divisible by 400, it is a leap year.
- Leap Day is also named St. Oswald’s Day after the archbishop of York who died on Feb. 29, 992 A.D.
There are records record for families with leap day babies (three consecutive generations of a family who have children born on Leap Day) and for the number of children born on Feb. 29 in the same family (three).
Anthony, Texas, United States, has proclaimed itself the “Leap Year Capital of the World” and celebrates with a Leap Year Festival every four years. They celebrate with an international leapling birthday club.
Traditions and superstitions (hint: leap years don’t always bring good tidings)
- It is considered bad luck in Greece to get married in a leap year.
- An old Irish tradition says women can propose to men on leap days, allegedly to balance the traditional roles of men and women the same way leap day balances the calendar. This is sometimes known as Bachelor’s Day. Years ago, if the man refused a woman’s proposal, he was obligated to buy her 12 pairs of new gloves to hide her embarrassment at not having an engagement ring.
- In Scotland, it used to be considered unlucky to be born on a leap day.
- In Italy, there is a saying anno biseto, anno funesto (leap year, gloomy year), which cautions against planning special activities, such as weddings.
- Russians associate leap years with unusual weather patterns and an increased risk of death.
Laura Amann is associate editor for the Toastmaster magazine.