February 29th: why the extra day in Leap Year?

Weather Blog

About every four years, we add an extra day to the calendar – February 29th – known as “Leap Day”. But why?

It all centers around the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun.

Our modern calendars indicate a year as 365 days… but when looking at the specifics, it actually takes the Earth 365.2421 days to orbit the Sun (one revolution). In order to keep our calendar year in sync with the astronomical year, we add an extra 24 hours every 4 years** to make up for the lost time (0.2421 of a day). Without Leap Years, the Earth’s seasons, equinoxes, and solstices would all shift over time, rather than falling near the same date year after year.

**There is one hang up to the “every 4 years” rule. Leap years are actually defined as years that are divisible by 4 (2020, 2024, 2028, 2032, etc.)… unless it marks the turn-of-the-century, in which the year must be divisible by 400. This leaves some years like 1900, 2100, 2200, etc. not being leap years.

Did you know? … Fun facts about leap year.

— According to Irish traditions dating back to the 5th century, the only day that does not occur annually (February 29th) is a day in which women are allowed to propose to men.
— According to Greek traditions, it is said to be “unlucky” to wed on Leap Day.
— In many European countries, tradition says that any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29th must buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The reason? So the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring.
— There are only about 5 million people in the world with a February 29th birthday
— The odds of being born on Leap Day stand at about 1-in-1,461 chance.
— People born on Leap Day are called ‘leaplings’.

For more information behind the history of leap years, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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