29 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Leap Year

The old cliché goes that the best things in life are worth waiting for, so the rare few who were born on Feb. 29 are in for a treat Monday: their first birthday in four years. A leap year occurs once every foursometimes eightyears, and unless it’s your birthday, it may not mean much to you. But maybe it should. In some cultures, it’s the perfect excuse for a woman to flip the script and pop the question, and in others, you may want to think before leaving your house. To help you up your trivia game and win a bar bet, I scoured the Internet for fun facts to help you celebrate Leap Year 2016 and, appropriately, narrowed it down to my 29 favorites.

The Basics

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1. Leap days fall on most years that are divisible by 4, such as this year. There’s an exception, though: leap years do not occur in years that are evenly divisible by 100, unless it’s by 400. That’s why 1900 was not a leap year, but 2000 was.
2. The longest we can go between two leap years is eight years. This last occurred between 1896 and 1904. Eat well and exercise regularly and you’ll be around for the next time it happens between 2096 and 2104.

History Lesson

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3. The ancient Egyptians first realized the solar year and the man-made calendar were not always in synch. The Earth takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds to travel around the sun, just a smidge longer than a calendar year. It doesn’t seem like cause for a whole extra day, but those hours added up over the centuries, so an extra day was added to the calendar.
4. People once used 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.
5. The Romans were the first to call Feb. 29 leap day…
6. …and the current formula was officially adopted in the 16th century.

Birthday Boys & Girls

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7. People born on Feb. 29 are called “leaplings” or “leapers.”
8. Leaplings are a rare breed. According to Raenell Dawn, co-founder of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies (yeah, that’s a thing), the odds of being born on leap day are 1 in 1,461. There are about 11,000 people nationwide who will be celebrating their real birthday Monday.
9. Those born on Feb. 29 usually blow out their candles on Feb. 28 or March 1 instead.
10. Famous leaplings include poet Lord Byron, rapper Ja Rule, model/actor Anthony Sabato, Jr., motivational speaker Tony Robbins, soccer player Darren Ambrose and Italian opera composer Gioacchino Rossini.
11. Astrologists believe leaplings have rare talents, like the ability to burp the alphabet and paint like Picasso.
12. Superstitious Chinese believe children born in a February during leap year are harder to raise.
13. Norway’s Karin Henriksen may be able to provide some insight on 10 and 11. Henriksen holds the world record for giving birth to the most children on consecutive leap days. Daughter Heidi was born Feb. 29, 1960, son Olav in 1964 and son Lief-Martin in 1968.
14. In Gilbert & Sullivan’s 19th century comic opera The Pirates of Penzance (which was adapted into a film and play about 100 years later), protagonist Frederic learns his apprenticeship binds him until his 21st birthday. That doesn’t sound like the worst thing, but he’s a leapling, so he can’t declare for free agency until his 80s.

Speaking of Parties

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16. Anthony, Texas calls itself “Leap Year Capital of the World.” Whenever Feb. 29 rolls around, they hold a festival which includes a guided trip to Aztec Cave, fun at the horse farm and square dancing. C’mon NoFo and NoFo frequenters, we can do better.
17. Hugh Hefner opened his first Playboy Club on Feb. 29, 1960, and life was never the same again for bunnies, monogamy and E!

Didn’t Get that Diamond on Valentine’s Day?

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18. This may or may not be more fiction than fact, but in 1288 the unmarried and supposedly five-year-old Scottish Queen Margaret enacted a law that gave women the right to corner a man with a proposal. If he declined, he’d be forced to pay a fine in the form of a kiss, silk dress or a pair of gloves. Sounds like a win-win, right ladies?
19. Old Irish legend has it that St. Brigid and St. Patrick agreed that women could propose to men every four years to help provide a bit of balance to gender roles, much like how leap day balances the calendar. This sort of sounds like an early version of the 75-cents-to-a-dollar thing, but I guess all movements have to start somewhere.
20. Amy Adams starred in the 2010 flick Leap Year as a woman who goes to Ireland to propose to her boyfriend on leap day.
21. The permission to flip the script thing isn’t just stuff of UK legends. In the US, Sadie Hawkins Day honors the “homeliest gal in the hills.” It’s inspired by a storyline in All Capp’s cartoon strip  Li’l Abner in which Sadie, still a spinster at 35, and the other un-hitched women in Dogpatch were allowed one day to chase after the town’s most eligible bachelors. Although Sadie Hawkins Day was first mentioned in the strip on Nov. 15, 1937, it’s become synonymous with leap day.

Feb. 29 or Friday the 13?

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22. The Greeks think getting married during a leap year, especially on Feb. 29, is bad luck.
23.  Italian proverbs warm against planning major life events in a leap year and some believe women are more erratic during a 366-day calendar. “Anno bisesto, anno funesto,” they say. (Translation: leap year, doom year)
24. “Leap year was ne’er a good sheep year,” respond the Scots. Scottish farmers don’t think leap year is good for crops or livestock.

While We’re in Poetry Slam Mode

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25. You might remember this poem from grade school, which gives a little shout out to leap year at the end:

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.

This & That

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26. Leap day is also St. Oswald’s Day, which honors the archbishop of York who passed away on Feb. 29, 992. On non-leap years, the day is observed on Feb. 28.
27. Feb. 29 is Rare Disease Day.
28. US Presidential Elections and the Summer Olympics occur during leap years.
29. Don’t feel bad about playing hooky Monday. If you’re on a fixed annual wage, you’re actually working for free.

How are you celebrating Leap Year 2016? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook and Twitter.

beth ann clyde

beth ann clyde

Beth Ann Clyde is a social strategist of Long Island Pulse. Have a story idea or just want to say hello? Email bethann@lipulse.com or reach out on Twitter @BAClyde.