Why Do We Have Leap Day?

Most years we get along just fine with 365 days. Why does February 29th creep onto the calendar (almost*) every four years?

The extra day keeps our Gregorian calendar — which was decreed by Pope Gregory in 1582 but not adopted in the American colonies until 1752 — in sync with Earth’s revolutions around the sun. Because one revolution actually takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds (but who’s counting?), if we didn’t adjust our calendars with Leap Day, we would lose almost 6 hours off our calendar every year.

Some Fun Leap Day Traditions, Folklore and Superstitions

An old Irish legend claims that St. Brigid made a deal with St. Patrick that on Feb. 29 women could propose marriage to men. To get in the spirit, you can watch the movie Leap Year that stars Amy Adams, Adam Scott (of Parks & Rec fame) and Matthew William Goode.

The Scottish used to consider it unlucky for someone to be born on Leap Day. But only people born on Feb. 29 are invited to join the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, the members of which are called “Leapers.” If you’re a Leaper, we want to know: On what date do you celebrate your birthday during non-Leap Years, and do you use your unique birthdate to claim to be a quarter as old as you are? That seems like quite a benefit!

Famous Leapers

Actress/singer Dinah Shore (b. 1916; d.1994)

Rapper Ja Rule (b. 1976)

Actor/supermodel Antonio Sabato Jr. (b. 1972)

Self-help author Tony Robbins (b. 1960)

Actor Dennis Farina (b. 1944; d. 2013)

Hockey player Simon Gagne (b. 1980)

Leap Day Crafts & Activities

If you're looking for a fun way to celebrate this day with the kids, why not make a Paper Bag Frog Puppet or a Paper Roll Frog

Or make a Leap Day obstacle course where the kids can burn off after-school energy until the sun sets. 

Find all the instructions at the links provided. 



*Leap years don’t occur every four years without question. There are some more complex criteria that must be met for a year to be a leap year: First, the year must be evenly divisible by 4. But if the year can be divided evenly by 100, it is not a leap year unless the year can also be divided evenly by 400. So the year 2000 was a leap year, but 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, and neither will be 2100. Got all that? It makes us glad we're not in charge of setting up Leap Day. 

Categories: MK Memo