We’ve all been duped.

Duped into thinking that there are 365 days every year.

Yes, that’s what our calendar says, but the reality is different. In actuality, the earth rotates around the sun 365 and a quarter times a year. This means that we have to play catch up every once in a while.

Thus, leap year.

The mathematical formula is simple:

[A leap year is] any year whose date is exactly divisible by 4 except those which are divisible by 100 but not 400.

Ok – so another way to say it is that the earth rotates:  about 365.242374 times around the sun a year.Or, around 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds. So, something had to be done. As a result, we add one day to the calendar every 4 years to “catch up.”

The Problem

I said that the earth rotates about that many times. It’s still not precise.  So, even if you add a day every four years, there are still some leftovers: 11 minutes and 14 seconds per year. Not a big deal, you might say. But, when you add that up it’s a big deal: After 128 years, the calendar would gain an entire extra day. Sheesh, so much work. To work your way around this, the Gregorian calendar omits leap years three times every four hundred years. A century year is not a leap year unless it is evenly divisible by 400. So, we’re good for another 3,300 years.

Ok, enough math.

Let’s get on with the history. The Egyptians were the first ones to add a day, and later the Romans caught on, and designated February 29th as the official leap day.

Why is it called a “leap”?

Let me try to explain. You know how one year your birthday falls on a Tuesday, and then the next year, it’s a Wednesday? Well, let’s say the next year is a leap year – it would skip Thursday – “leap” over it, and land on a Friday. Does that make sense?

“Leap Year was Never a Good Sheep Year”

Some folks (thus tall tales such as this are called “folk-lore) believed that Leap Year was jinxed. Many farmers believed that beans and peas grew backwards during the 4th year (whatever does a backwards pea look like?). This is all very ironic, as the purpose of leap year is to keep the calendar from going out-of-whack. Leap year is to keep everything in-wack, so to speak.

Leapsters

A leapster is an individual who is born on that most unlikely of days; February 29th.  The chances of this happening is 1 in 1500. So, there are 187,000 people in the US, and 4 million people in the world with that birthday. The cool thing about being born on this day (besides being so unique!) is that you can celebrate your birthday in February one year, and March the next! Very cool. We are proud to say that one of our family members is a leapster – James Light was born on February 29th. How old is he? I’ll give you a hint…he’s only had 4 real birthdays…

Proposals

Tradition has it that women who are tired of waiting for offers of marriage can propose on this special day. Legend has it that St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about the plight of unmarried women. So, St. Patrick relented, and announced that women could propose to their timid suitors on February 29th. So, watch out!