Celebrate leap year by learning some fun Feb. 29 facts. Why do we add 24 hours to our calendar every four years? And why the heck is it in February? Plus, what famous faces are "younger" than they look, your chances of having a leap year baby and more. Sit back and read some extraordinary info about this extra day.
LEAP YEAR FACTS
- Julius Caesar is said to be the "father of leap year." Ancient Egyptians created the basis for the modern-day calendar. But by Julius Caesar's time, it had slipped out of sync with Earth's seasons. The 355-day Roman calendar called for an extra 22- or 23-day month every two years to keep the seasons on track. So he decided to create a 365-day calendar, but the actual calculations were made by Caesar's astronomer, Sosigenes. Sosigenes added one extra day to every fourth February. Why February? It was the last month of the year in Roman times.
- Anthony, Texas, is the self-proclaimed Leap Year Capital of the World. In 1988, the chamber of commerce in the little town on the border between New Mexico and Texas voted to sponsor the Worldwide Leap Year Festival and Worldwide Leap Year Birthday Club. Partiers celebrate with a parade, hot-air-balloon rides, a carnival and a gathering of people born on Feb. 29. To learn more about the festival go to www.leapyearcapital.com.
- Greek superstition claims that bad luck will come to couples that marry during a leap year. Allegedly one in five engaged couples in Greece will avoid planning their wedding during a leap year.
- Leap day is also when women were once officially allowed to step outside of tradition and propose to their beaus. According to legend, St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick in fifth-century Ireland about women having to wait for so long for a man to propose. St. Patrick's solution was to allow women one chance that only came around every four years to take the initiative. In 1288 Scotland supposedly made the tradition a law and any man who declined a proposal in a leap year had to pay a fine ranging from a kiss to payment for a silk dress or a pair of gloves. Today North Americans call this tradition Sadie Hawkins Day, invented by Al Capp in his cartoon strip Li'l Abner, but there is debate over whether it's Feb. 29 or Nov. 15 -- the date the cartoon was first published.
A leap year is a year in the Gregorian calendar with one extra day added to the end of February, making the month 29 days long. The day was established to keep the seasons and the calendar in sync. A year is measured by the amount of time it takes the sun to return to the spot directly above the Earth's equator.
Although it actually takes 365.2422 days, we round it to 365. But this results in an error of 0.2422 days, or almost six hours, per year. After 100 years this calendar would be more than 24 days ahead of the seasons, but leap day makes up for the inaccuracy. Years that end in 00 would only be a leap year if they are divisible by 400. So 1900 was not a leap year, but 2000 was.
BY THE NUMBERS
- The chances of a leap birthday are one in 1,461 -- long odds for getting the short end of the stick. Imagine waiting four years for your real birthday and hearing endless jokes about being three when you're really 12.
- The longest time between two leap years is eight years. The last time this happened was between 1896 and 1904 and it won't happen again until 2096 to 2104.
- There were five Fridays in February 2008 -- the month begins and ends on a Friday. Between 1904 and 2096, leap day occurs on the same day of the week every 28 years, so the last time February had five Fridays was in 1980 and next time will be in 2036.
- According to global statistics, there are about 4.1 million people worldwide born on Feb. 29.
- Norway's Henriksen siblings are recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. The three siblings were born on three consecutive leap days. Heidi Henriksen, 1960; Olav Henriksen, 1964; and Leif-Martin Henriksen, 1968.
- The Keogh family has three consecutive generations born on Feb. 29. Peter Anthony was born in Ireland in 1940; his son Peter Eric was born in the United Kingdom in 1964; and his granddaughter Bethany Wealth was born in the United Kingdom in 1996.
Someone born on leap day may be called a leapling. They usually celebrate their birthdays on Feb. 28 or March 1 in common years.
BLESSING OR CURSE
Being born on leap day isn't always fun and games. In non-leap years certain countries legally recognize Feb. 29 birthdays on Feb. 28 or March 1, resulting in hassles with birth certificates, driver's licences and entry fields on websites.
But many leap day babies report benefits to playing the "leap day card," receiving free meals, free admission and discounts.
In 1988, Time magazine proclaimed Superman to be born on Feb. 29, making the superhero a leap day baby!
1980 -- Simon Gagne, Canadian hockey player and NHL All-Star.
1976 -- Ja Rule, American rapper and actor.
1972 -- Saul Williams, American rap poet and actor.
1972 -- Antonio Sabato Jr., Italian-born soap star whose credits include The Bold and the Beautiful, Melrose Place and General Hospital.
1968 -- Bryce Eric Paup, football player, named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1995 and a four-time Pro Bowl selection.
1960 -- Tony Robbins, American self-help author, infomercial fixture and motivational speaker.
1944 -- Dennis Farina, ex-Chicago police officer turned actor with memorable roles in Get Shorty and Law & Order.
1940 -- Billy Turner, a successful trainer of thoroughbreds including Seattle Slew, winner of the U.S. Triple Crown in 1977.
1940 -- Gretchen Christopher, vocalist and songwriter who founded The Fleetwoods, one of the '50s most popular doo-wop groups.
1916 -- Dinah Shore, American singer, actress and television personality.
1904 -- Mr. Wolfe Plus 585 Sr., person with the longest official name. With a name for every letter of the alphabet, his full name is 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.
1904 -- Jimmy Dorsey, prominent American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, trumpeter and big band leader.
1736 -- Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker movement, which she brought to America in 1776.
1712 -- General Louis-Joseph Montcalm, hero of the Seven Years War, died in the Battle of Quebec.
SOURCES: www.leapyearcapital.com, www.leapzine.com/FamousLeapies.htm, www.timeanddate.com/date/leapyeaR.html, inventors.about.com, findarticles.com, marriage.about.com
-- McClatchy-Tribune Information Services