As you all know, 2016 is a leap year and today, Feb 29th is leap day, the day incorporated in the calendar every 4 years to keep things running smoothly. But have you wondered why we have one extra day stuck to the end of February every 4 years? Here are 7 fun facts about leap years and leap days.
The extra day
Leap days are needed to keep our calendar in sync with Earth’s revolutions around the Sun. It takes our planet 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds, to circle once around the Sun. This called a tropical year. Without an extra day on February 29 nearly every leap year, we would lose almost six hours every year.
Julius Caesar introduced the first leap year around 46 B.C., but his Julian calendar had only one rule: Any year evenly divisible by four would be a leap year. This created too many leap years. To solve this problem, Pope Gregory XIII introduced his Gregorian calendar more than 1,500 years later. 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.
Leap months in other countries
A whole leap month is added to the Chinese calendar every three years. The leap month’s place in the Chinese calendar varies from year to year, and 2015 was a leap year in the Chinese calendar. In the Ethiopian calendar, a leap year occurs when an extra day is added to the last month of the year every four years.
Leap year traditions
There’s a tradition of women proposing to men on 29th Feb. The custom has been attributed to St. Bridget, who is said to have complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for men to propose marriage. St. Patrick supposedly gave women one day to propose.
Leap year babies
People born on leap days are often called leaplings or ‘leapers’. Most of them celebrate their birthday either on Feb. 28 or March 1 on non-leap years.
Composer Gioacchino Rossini, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, jazz musician Jimmy Dorsey, actors Dennis Farina and Antonio Sabato Jr., and rapper/actor Ja Rule were all born on leap days.
Leap years in history
During leap years, George Armstrong Custer fought the Battle of the Little Bighorn (1876), the Titanic sank (1912), Benjamin Franklin proved that lightning is electricity (1752) and gold was discovered in California (1848).
So go ahead and share these fun facts with your friends and family, and make the most of the one extra day that you have this year.