This is a special day.
According to The Mirror, a UK newspaper, there are 16 amazing things you should know about it. I figured it would be fun to show them off a little.
The leap year’s extra day is vital because a complete orbit around the sun takes slightly longer than 365 days – 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds longer, to be exact.
At one time people observed a 355-day calendar with an extra 22-day month every two years. But in 45BC Julius Caesar ordered his astronomer, Sosigenes, to simplify things.
Sosigenes opted for the 365-day year with an extra day every four years to use up the extra hours. The extra day is added to February because it used to be the last month of the Roman calendar.
The system was then fine-tuned by Pope Gregory XIII. He coined the term “leap year” and declared that a year that is divisible by 100, but not by 400, is not a leap year.
So 2000 was a leap year under the Gregorian calendar, as was 1600. But 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not.
The tradition of women proposing on leap day is thought to date back to 5th-century Ireland when St Bridget complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for suitors to propose.
He then gave women a single day in a leap year to pop the question – the last day of the shortest month. Legend has it that Brigid then dropped to a knee and proposed to Patrick that instant, but he refused, kissing her on the cheek and offering a silk gown to soften the blow.
Others believe the tradition originates from Scotland when Queen Margaret, then aged just five, declared in 1288 that a woman could propose to any man she liked on February 29.
She ruled that men who refused the proposal would need to pay a fine in the form of a kiss, a silk dress, a pair of gloves or a fine of one pound. To give suitors fair warning – and possibly a chance to escape – a woman was required to wear breeches or a scarlet petticoats on the day of the proposal.
In Denmark, a man refusing a woman’s leap day proposal must give her 12 pairs of gloves, while in Finland it’s fabric for a skirt.
One in five engaged couples in Greece avoid getting married in a leap year because they believe it’s bad luck.
In Italy legend has it that women are erratic during a leap year and several proverbs warn against planning important life events in a leap year. “Anno bisesto, anno funesto” means “leap year, doom year”.
In Russia it is believed a leap year is likely to bring more freak weather patterns and a greater risk of death all round. Farming folklore says beans and peas planted in a leap year “grow the wrong way”.
Scottish farmers believe leap years are not good for crops or livestock, thanks to the old proverb: “Leap year was ne’er a good sheep year.”
Workers paid fixed annual or monthly salaries essentially work for free on February 29 because wages are not usually calculated to account for the extra day. And prisoners with one-year sentences must serve the extra day if the term crosses leap day.
People born on February 29 are called “leaplings” or “leapers”. The chance of being born on a leap day is one in 1,461. There are five million leaplings around the world.
For centuries, astrologers believed children born on leap day have unusual talents, unique personalities and even special powers. The poet Lord Byron was born on a leap day, as were rapper Ja Rule and footballer Darren Ambrose.
In Hong Kong the legal birthday of a leapling is March 1 in common years, while in New Zealand it is February 28. If you timed it right, flying from one country to the other you could enjoy the world’s longest birthday.
Some leaplings have also died on a leap day. They include James Milne Wilson, the eighth premier of Tasmania, who was born on February 29 1812 and died on February 29 1880.
The town of Anthony in Texas, US, is the self-proclaimed “Leap Year Capital of the World”. It holds a festival which includes a guided trip to Aztec Cave, “fun at the horse farm” and square dancing.
This year’s festival runs from February 25 to 29.
The record for the most generations born on leap day is held by the Keogh family in Ireland and UK.
Peter Anthony Keogh was born on leap day in 1940 in Ireland, his son Peter Eric came into the world on February 29 1964 in the UK and a granddaughter, Bethany Wealth on leap day in 1996.
Karin Henriksen of Norway holds the world record for giving birth to the most children on consecutive leap days. Her daughter Heidi was born on February 29 1960, followed by son Olav in 1964 and son Lief-Martin in 1968.
In the traditional Chinese calendar (and in the Hebrew and Hindu calendars) a whole leap month, rather than just a day, is added to the year.
This is known as an embolismic month. They believe that children born in a leap month are harder to bring up. They are also reluctant to start a business in a leap year.
In Taiwan, married daughters traditionally return home during the leap month as it is believed the lunar month can bring bad health to parents.
The daughters are told to bring pig trotter noodles to wish them good health and good fortune.