It comes around ALMOST every four years

So, when do leap years occur, and how are we supposed to remember? Some people find it easier to remember that Leap Days occur the same year that the Presidential election occurs. For others who prefer math, there is a formula to figure it out.

The year 2024 will mark yet another year when Leap Day will be celebrated. This year, it falls on Thursday, Feb. 29. A Leap Day is added to the calendar every four years, and this extra day will make the year 366 days long instead of the common 365 days.

Why do we need Leap Days?

Leap days are needed to keep our Gregorian calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the Sun. It takes the Earth approximately 365.242189 days – or 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds – to circle once around the Sun. This is called a tropical year.

Without an extra day on Feb. 29 — nearly — every four years, we would lose almost six hours every year. After only 100 years, our calendar would be off by approximately 24 days in relation to fixed seasonal days, like the vernal equinox or winter solstice.

History of the Leap Year

The ancient Roman calendar added an extra month every few years to maintain the correct seasonal changes, similar to the Chinese leap month. But in 45 BCE, Roman General Julius Caesar introduced the first leap day in his Julian calendar. A leap day was added every four years. At the time, leap day was Feb. 24, and February was the last month of the year.

However, adding a leap day every four years was too often, and eventually Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582. This calendar has a more precise formula for calculating leap years, also known as bissextile years.

The formula for calculating which years will have Leap Days is more complicated than first believed. It is believed that one out of every four years is a Leap Year, which is true… mostly.

A Leap Day is added every four years unless the year is perfectly divisible by 100, in which case there will not be a Leap Day. But if the year is also perfectly divisible by 400, the previous rule will be nullified and a Leap Day will occur.

For example, the year 2000 had a Leap Day because it was perfectly divisible by 400, while the year 2100 will not have a Leap Day because it is only perfectly divisible by 100.

Most people won’t see a Leap Day skipped in their lifetime. The last time a Leap Day was skipped was in February 1900. The next time will be in February 2100.

Leap Day Babies

There are a select few people in the world who were born on Leap Day – Leaplings as they call themselves – and are technically younger than they look if they were to count actual birthdays. Those who do have a birthday on Leap Day usually celebrate either Feb. 28 or March 1.

When looking at the legality of Feb. 29 birthdays, every place handles it differently. In most U.S. states and places like the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, people with Leap Day birthdays don’t hit legal milestones – drinking age, smoking age, rental car age, etc. – until March 1. In places like China, Taiwan and New Zealand, Feb. 28 is the legal birthday.

These people are all invited to join The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies – founded in 1997 – which currently has more than 10,000 members.

With Leap Days generally only coming around every four years, the chance of knowing someone with a Leap Day birthday is rare. The Sabetha Herald has found that local resident Chris Halls is a Leapling. If you know of anyone else who is a Leapling, please contact us at news@sabethaherald.com.

Most people can only imagine what life would be like if they were younger – technically – than they appear.

Heather Stewart118 Posts

Heather Stewart is one of two co-editors for The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2015. Heather is a 2011 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in psychology. She lives in Sabetha with her husband.

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