A Hop, Skip, and a Jump Away from February 29

February 22, 2024
February 29 is leap day

As you have probably realized by now, 2024 is a leap year, with February 29 being a leap day. But what does that mean exactly? What is leap year, and why do we have to have it?

Get ready for some math. . .

Ok, it takes exactly 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds for the earth to circle the sun. So, because a calendar year is only 365 days, somehow, we need to make up for this extra time. Otherwise, eventually the seasons would be so off that it would snow on the 4th of July here in Petoskey, and that would lead to some especially frustrated parade goers. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar introduced the first calendar leap year.  He decided that every four years it is necessary to add a full day’s time on to our year to make up for the difference (He agreed that snow in July would be bad). So, the occasional February 29 ensures we do not lose six hours every year. But wait, it was not that simple. Five hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds times 4 does not equal 24 hours, so there had to be a little more to this leap year idea. Here is the somewhat confusing solution- not every four years is necessarily a leap year. If a year is divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400, leap year is skipped. So, the year 2000 was a leap year, but the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. Given this formula, the next time we would skip a leap year would be in 2100. 

Now that leap year has been defined, and we have done the math to figure out just when an why we have to have this extra day added to February, here are some interesting facts about this special day:

  1. Leap day babies are often affectionately referred to as “leapers” or “leaplings”.
  2. There are two towns named Anthony, one is in Texas and one is in New Mexico, and they border each other. Every year that there is a leap day, the towns host a huge festival celebrating the birthdays of those fortunate (or unfortunate?) enough to be born on February 29. You can learn more about the celebration including its history by clicking here.  
  3. In some cultures, leap year is considered to be unlucky. In Scotland, some believe that if you are born on leap day, you will have a lifetime of bad luck. The Greeks, Ukrainians, and Italians see leap year as an unlucky time to get married, and for those that do choose to marry, their marriage will be doomed to end in divorce. There is an old German proverb that states that leap year will be a cold year and thus bad for crops. 
  4. On the other hand, some cultures believe leap year and day are lucky. In Chinese culture, people believe that leap months are the best for weddings. In Indian and Scottish beliefs being born on leap day can be considered extremely lucky and their lives will be filled with luck and good fortune. 
  5. According to the Guiness Book of World Records, there is one verified example of a family producing three consecutive generations born on leap day. Peter Anthony Keogh was born in 1940. His son, Peter Eric, was born on leap day in 1964, and Peter Eric’s daughter was born on February 29 in 1996.

And finally, I will leave you with a list of celebrities who were born on a leap day. 

  • Cullen Jones, Olympic gold medal swimmer was born in 1984
  • Mark Foster, lead singer of Foster for the People was born in 1984
  • Ja Rule, rapper extraordinaire was born in 1976
  • Tony Robbins, motivational speaker, and life coach was born in 1960
  • Bart Stupak, former Michigan congressman was born in 1952
  • Dinah Shore, singer, and actress was born in 1916
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