Leap Year – The Gift of an Extra Day

Leap Year

The 2016 year puts February 29th back on the calendar. And, we are each the proud winner of one free day thanks to Leap Year!

Who hasn’t complained at one point that 24 hours is just  not enough to do what needs to be done in a day? My to do list never seems to get any shorter and I’ll bet yours doesn’t either.

This year we all get an extra 24 hours to catch up. When was the last time you gained something so luxurious? Something that you could really do something with? Appreciate it because it will be four more years before you get another gift like this again.

Thirty days hath September,

April, June, and November;

All the rest have thirty-one,

Excepting February alone,

And that has twenty-eight days clear

And twenty-nine in each leap year.

Leap Into February the 29th

Feb 29This year Leap Year is making a return after a four-year hiatus. What are you doing with your extra day? Why not take a leap?

Leap Year is all about the numbers. The earth takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds (or 365.242199 days) to revolve around the sun. Because our calendar only counts 365 days, the difference is accumulated into one extra day every four years. So this is the short answer to why February 29th gives us an extra Day of winter!

February 2016 is unique for another reason, too. This year it has 4 Sundays, 4 Mondays, 4 Tuesdays, 4 Wednesdays, 4 Thursdays, 4 Fridays and 4 Saturday. That also means February  will have 4 full weekends! And guess what? You will never see this again in your lifetime. It will be another 823 years before this cycle repeats.

Behind the Leap Day

Julius Caesar instituted the Leap Year system in about 44 B.C. to correct a defect in the calendar that would otherwise put the seasons out of sync. From that day on, the world has been using his mathematical gymnastics.

Leap Day occurs in most years that are divisible by 4, such as 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020 and 2024. Although Leap Years occur every four years, the exceptions are those years ending in double zeros, such as 1900 and 2100. To confuse matters, there is an exception to that exception: Years ending in double zeros that can be evenly divided by 400, such as 1600 and 2000, are in fact leap years.

Microsoft’s Excel doesn’t realize that 1900 was not a leap year and, as a result, myriad other companies’ programs, in order to be compatible, have had to put the error in their code. This is why an algorithm was too complicated to write.

Leap Day got its name because every four years, this day ‘leaps’ over one day of the week. This is due to how days of the year line up with the days of the week. In a non-leap year (or “common” year), each year the date of the year advances by one day of the week. Got it? Let me explain. December 25th  fell on a Thursday in common year 2014. The next year, another common year, December 25th, 2015 fell on a Friday. In 2016, December 25th will ‘leap’ over Saturday and fall on a Sunday due to the extra day, February 29th.

Leap Day Traditions & Folklore

Leap Day has existed for more than 2000 years and is still associated with age-old customs, folklore and superstition that are worldwide in its behavior.

Leaping into Love

Leap yearAccording to the Irish, women are allowed to propose to their boyfriends on the last day of the shortest month in a Leap Year. The tradition is not thought to have become commonplace until the 19th Century. It is reckoned that this action balances the roles of men and women in a similar way to how the Leap Year balances the calendar. This concept was a bit hypocritical because under English law it is beleived that if the day had no legal status, it was acceptable to break with the convention of a man proposing.

Not so in Scotland! Legend has it that back in 1288, the Scots passed a law that allowed a woman to propose marriage to the man of her dreams in a Leap Year with the law stating that any man who declined the proposal on this day would have to pay a fine. Ha!

In many European countries, Denmark as example, Leap Day has been known as “Bachelors’ Day”. In the upper classes of society, the tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29th has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. One theory suggests that that this means a woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring.

In Finland the penalty for refusing a woman’s proposal was providing fabric for a skirt. In still other countries, a man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a silk dress or money. During the middle ages there were actual laws governing these traditions.

In Greece couples often avoid getting married in a Leap Year  because it is considered unlucky. For this reason, one in five engaged couples make the effort to avoid it. Getting married on Leap Day is thought to ensure even more bad luck


leaplingBabies born on February 29th are referred to as Leaplings. Today, it is considered a privilege to have a birth associated with this day. All Leaplings are immediately invited to join The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies. Leaplings even have their own Facebook page! There are just over 200,000 leapers in the United States and just under 5 million worldwide

The chance of being born on a leap day is often said to be one in 1,461. Four years is 1,460 days and adding one for the Leap Year you have 1,461. So, the odds are 1 in 1,461.  According to astrologers, people born under the sign of Pisces on February 29th have unusual talents and personalities reflecting their special status.

In common (non-leap) years, many Leaplings choose to celebrate their birthday on either February 28th or March 1st. Some countries actually have laws defining on which date a person born on February 29th will legally “come of age” because of the amount of confusion it may create.

In New Zealand, China and Taiwan a person born on 29th February can officially celebrate on February 28th during common years.  In other countries like the United Kingdom, Leap Year babies have to wait until March 1 to honor their birthday.

Many years ago in Scotland it was considered unlucky for someone to be born on Leap Day – not unlike being born on Friday the 13th. Today that kind of thinking would not be accepted at all – particularly when there are multiples of Leaplings, thanks to the Leap Day World Record Holders.

More Leap Year Eccentricities

  • No year that is divisible by 100 can be a Leap Year unless it can be divided by 400.
  • Because there is no leap year in 2100, anyone born this February 29 who lives a long life will have no birthday from 2096 to 2104.
  • The very first Calendar that provided for Leap Year was introduced in 238 B.C. By King Ptolemy.
  • The Gregorian calendar repeats itself every 400 years, which is 20,871 weeks including 97 leap days.
  • February 29th falls 13 times on a Sunday, Tuesday, or Thursday. Fridays or Saturdays occur 14 times. And Mondays or Wednesdays will crop up 15 times.
  • In the Chinese calendar, this day will only occur in years of the MonkeyDragon, and Rat.
  • The Hindu and Hebrew calendars add a full Leap Month.
  • Roman dictator Julius Caesar instituted the leap year however, and to be more exact, it was his astronomer that invented the leap year.
  • Coins minted during a leap year are considered to be lucky charms.
  • February 29th is not recognized by some computer services and software programs that power everything from banking to life insurance.
  • Leap Day has tripped up Google, whose Blogger program will not allow existing users born on February 29 to update their profiles.
  • Because of their quadrennial birthdate, Leaplings have been known to invite people to their Sweet 16 party to mark their 64th year.
  • The European Football (Soccer) Championship and Summer Olympic Games always fall in Leap Years.
  • Leap Year folklore contends that beans and peas planted during a Leap Year “grow the wrong way”.
  • The Scots have a saying that the prospects for livestock are bleak: “Leap Year was never a good sheep year.”
  • In Russia and other nearby countries such as Ukraine, leap years are considered unlucky times to get married or buy a house.
  • In Taiwan, parents are thought more likely to die during a leap year.
  • Older generations in China maintain that it’s good luck – and not bad – to get married during a leap year.
  • In Bulgaria, there is a tradition for young children to adorn their cloths with silver coins against diseases and catching the evil eye.
  • In the United States, February 29 is often referred to as “Sadie Hawkins Day”, signifying a gender role reversal.
  • Anthony, Texas is the self-proclaimed “Leap Year Capital of the World” and holds a festival with a guided trip to Aztec Cave, “fun at the horse farm” and square dancing.
  • The frog is a symbol associated with February 29th.
  • Hugh Hefner opened his first Playboy Club on February 29th, 1960.
  • February 29th marks Rare Disease Day
  • It is believed that in a Leap Year there are more natural disasters and calamities
  • “Leap Day” is the eighth episode of the sixth season of the American television comedy series 30 Rock, and the 112th overall episode of the series.
  • If you work on a fixed annual wage, February 29th  is one more day’s work than you would usually have been paid to do last year.

leaping frogTake the Leap on February 29th

February 29 is a quirky extra day to enjoy life. In the spirit of the Leap Day holiday, consider taking a leap. Rather than fly through the day without stopping to recognize the gift of the extra day, think about actually celebrating the date as some special occasion.

Why not mark February 29th on the calendar so that all of your colleagues are aware of this special day? Afterall, it is a gift. Just maybe your co-workers will choose to share your mindset and not take this extra time for granted.

Did you know? February is National Time Management Month.

Will your office get a visit from Leap Day William who trades tears for candy?

Will there be tears? Maybe. If you are on a fixed annual salary, on February 29th you are working for free!

“Leap and the net will appear.” ~ John Burroughs

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