A leap year is a year that has 366 days, instead 365 days. A day is added to the end of the month of February so that it has 29 days instead of 28.
What is the purpose of "Leap Year"?
The time it takes for the Earth to orbit the Sun is 365.2421 days rather than the exact 365 days of the calendar. Every four years, an extra day is added to the calendar to realign our calendar with the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. There is an exception to the "four year rule" -- every four years "except for years evenly divisible by 100 and not by 400." According to mathematicians, 97 out of every 400 years will be leap years -- rather than 100 out of every 400.
What is the history/origin of "Leap Year"?
For us in the U.S.A. it goes back to what is known as “Julian Calendar”, though Egyptians were among the first people to calculate a leap year. The “Julian Calendar” was adopted in 46 B.C. (and instituted in 45 B.C.) under the reign of Julius Caesar, adding a leap day every four years. Before this, the Roman calendar (and many others, such as the Jewish calendar) used a "lunar calendar" that added an extra month on a recurring basis. Pope Gregory XIII adopted a calendar revision in 1582. Known as the “Gregorian Calendar,” it is still in use today. It gave the "evenly divisible" exception rule (mentioned above) to readjust for the discrepancies that had occurred between the “Julian Calendar” and the solar year.
Why is it called "Leap Year"?
A "Leap Year" is a year that contains a "Leap Day". Some say it is because in leap years fixed dates advance (leap forward) two days instead of one. That is, in regular (non-leap) years, fixed dates advance one day in the week per year; with the inclusion of a leap day, fixed dates advance two days instead of one. For example, Christmas fell on a Thursday in 2014. It fell on a Friday in 2015. If 2016 were a common year, Christmas would fall on a Saturday. But since 2016 is a leap year, Christmas will leap over Saturday and fall on a Sunday.
When the 365-day “Julian Calendar” was devised, February was the last month of the year and the extra day was added to it.
Who are some people born on Leap Day?
- Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker movement (born 1736)
- Gioacchino Rossini, Italian composer (born 1792)
- Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenberdorft Sr., German individual with the longest name officially used by any known person (born 1904)
- Dinah Shore, American singer and actress (born 1916)
- Gretchen Christopher, American singer and songwriter, co-founder of The Fleetwoods (born 1940)
- Bart Stupak, American politician (born 1952)
- Peter Brouwer, leapling and co-founder of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, says, “The law of averages means your chance of being born on Feb. 29 are one out of 1,461.”