Leap Year Trivia

Leap Day for leaplings and leapers

Leap Year Rabbit Animation

Leap Year History

The ancient Egyptians first realized that the solar year and their calendar year didn’t always match up. They estimated that it took the Earth a little longer than a year to travel around the Sun (365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds as we now know). King Ptolemaios III Euergetes, through his Canopus decree in 238 BC, had one more day added every four years, but this wasn’t practiced until Augustus reformed the Egyptian calendar in 30 BC. (Holger Oertel)

The Romans first designated February 29 as “leap day”. Cleopatra introduced the solar system to Julius Caesar, and he calculated the Earth’s revolution to 365.25 days, then added one extra day to the 365-day calendar year every four years (because it took four years for that extra quarter of a day to add up to one full day). But by rounding, Caesar added approximately 11 minutes to the calendar year.

At the time of Pope Gregory XIII (late 1500s), the calendar year was 12 days ahead of the solar year, which meant that the beginning of seasons had shifted forward by 12 days.

Pope Gregory decided to omit the leap year three times every 400 years. The “Gregorian Calendar” fine-tuned the calculations to include a leap day in years only divisible by four (i.e. 2016, 2020, 2024). Another stipulation ruled that no year divisible by 100 would have a leap year, except if it was divisible by 400 (i.e. 1900 was not a leap year, but 2000 was).


Leap Year Tradition & Superstition

- People born on February 29 are called “leaplings” or “leapers”.

- According to astrologers, those born under the sign of Pisces on February 29 have unusual talents and personalities reflecting their special status. Most have to wait every four years to “officially” observe their birthdays, but leap year babies typically choose either February 28 or March 1 to celebrate in years that aren’t leap years.

- Leap year baby Mary Ann Brown founded the Worldwide Leap Year Festival in 1988 in Anthony, Texas - the leap year capital of the world. Leap year ‘leaplings’ around the world come to its annual festival parade which includes a guided trip to Aztec Cave, “fun at the horse farm” and square dancing.

- Five-year-old Queen Margaret of Scotland enacted a law in 1288 that allowed women the right to corner a man with a proposal. Men who refused would have to pay a fine in the form of a kiss, a silk dress or a pair of gloves. Women had to either wear breeches or a scarlet petticoat to pop the question.

- One in five engaged couples in Greece plan to avoid getting married in a leap year, since they believe it is bad luck.

- In fifth century Ireland, St. Brigid complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait too long for men to propose marriage, and so he decided that in a leap year, women could take the initiative.

- Superstitious Chinese believe that more accidents and mishaps occur during the leap month in the lunar calendar. They also think that children born in that month are harder to bring up. Chinese people aren’t keen to start a business or get married then.

- A U.S. custom comes from the comic strip “L’il Abner” by cartoonist Al Capp. In his fictional town of Dogpatch, there was a character called Sadie Hawkins, who couldn’t attract a husband because she was ugly. Her father then set up a day each year when women could literally chase after the bachelors in town in a race. The unlucky fellow who is caught would have to marry the women who nabs him. While the event was held in November in the comic strip, it now seems associated with February 29th.

- U.S. Presidential elections and Summer Olympic Games are both held every four years and occur in the Leap Year.

- February 29 marks Rare Disease Day (since Rare Disease Day is observed annually on the last day of February).

- If you’re on a fixed annual wage, you are working for free on February 29.

- Astrologers believe people born on February 29 have unusual talents (such as the ability to paint like Picasso, or burp the alphabet).

- Mitsukuni “honey” Haninozuka, the manga and anime character born on a leap day, likes cake, sweets and stuffed toys.

- The character “Leap Day William”, who appeared in an episode of 30 Rock, wears blue and yellow.

- The French call leapfrog “saute-mouton”, which translates literally as “leap sheep”. The frog is a symbol associated with February 29. The Australian rocket frog can leap over two metres. Parties are sometimes thrown to celebrate leap days. There is no special leap day food but if there was, it would probably be frog’s legs.


Leap Year Poem

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
All the rest have thirty-one
Save February, she alone
Hath eight days and a score
Til leap year gives her one day more.


Leap Year World Records (from Guinness Book of Records)

- The only verified example of a family producing three consecutive generations born on February 29 is that of the Keogh family. Peter Anthony was born in Ireland on a Leap Day in 1940, while his son, Peter Eric, was born in the UK on February 29, 1964. Peter Eric’s daughter, Bethany Wealth, was also a Leap Day baby, born in the UK on February 29, 1996.

- The Henriksen family from Andenes, Norway currently holds the official record for the most number of children born in one family on leap day. Karin Henriksen gave birth to three children on February 29; her daughter Heidi in 1960 and her sons Olav and Leif-Martin in 1964 and 1968.


Leap Year in the Movies

In Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera “The Pirates of Penzance”, the hero Frederic realizes his apprenticeship binds him until his 21st birthday, but since his birthday falls on February 29 it means that technically he is only a young lad, and won’t reach his 21st birthday until he is in his eighties - he must remain apprenticed to pirates and serve another 63 years before he can join Mabel, his one true love.


Celebrity Leap Day Birthdays

1980 – Chris Conley, American musician and songwriter/composer
1976 – Ja Rule (real name Jeffrey Atkins), American rapper and actor
1972 – Antonio Sabŕto Jr, Italian-born actor
1972 – Saul Stacey Williams, American singer, musician, poet, writer, and actor
1968 – Wendi Louise Peters, English television and theatre character actress
1964 – Lyndon Byers, Canadian hockey player
1960 – Anthony (Tony) Robbins, American motivational speaker
1956 - Aileen Wuornos, American serial killer
1924 – Al Rosen, American baseball player
1924 – Carlos Humberto Romero, former president of El Salvador
1916 – Dinah Shore, American singer (d. 1994)
1904 - Jimmy Dorsey, bandleader
1896 – Morarji Desai, former Indian prime minister (d. 1995)
1792 – Gioacchino Rossini, Italian composer (William Tell, The Barber of Seville) (d. 1868)
1468 – Pope Paul III (d. 1549)


Every leap year I like to jump. It’s a good way to get my daily exercise in every four years. - Jarod Kintz

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24-Aug-2019