Today is a special day that only comes along once every fours years, more or less. The ancient Egyptians were the first to discover that the solar year and the man-made calendar year don’t exactly match. It actually takes the Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to travel around the sun– thus the extra day every four years. The Romans were the ones to designate February 29th as that day. Then in the 16th century, it was determined that this would occur in years divisible by four. But it’s even a little more complicated because the math still wouldn’t come out right. So, we add a further step where no year divisible by 100 can have a leap year, unless it is divisible by 400. This means that 1900 was not a leap year but 2000 was. To find out more about calendar history and to get answers to questions like “How many days in a dinosaur year?” and “Should 2100 be a double leap year?” check out this book from our collection: Marking Time: The Epic Quest to Invent the Perfect Calendar.
Here are some more interesting facts about Leap Day:
- People born on February 29 are called “leaplings” or “leapers”.
- If you receive a fixed annual salary, you are working for free today.
- Old Irish tradition says that February 29th is the only day of the year when a woman may propose to a man.
- Queen Margaret of Scotland is said to have taken this a step further by enacting a law that said that any man that refused a proposal on this day would have to pay his proposer one hundred pounds or give her a silk dress.
- Greek tradition considers marrying in a Leap Year to be unlucky, especially on Leap Day.
- The chance of being born on Leap Day is about 1 in 1,461.
- According to Reuters, there are more than 200,000 leaplings in the United States and more than 5 million worldwide.
- Leap Years are the only years where January 1st and December 31st are on different days of the week — every other year they’re on the same day.
- Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera The Pirates of Penzance has a little fun with the idea of being born on February 29th. Poor Frederic the pirate apprentice– his indenture will last until his 21st birthday rather than his 21st year.
And for those of you lucky enough to be born on this special day, you may want to check out this article from Marketwatch.com 9 reasons to celebrate Leap Day on Feb. 29. Here you’ll find great deals from restaurants and other businesses that are only available to leaplings today.