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  • Madelynn Lockwood

Leap Day! My favorite day of every four years!

Madelynn Lockwood, Features Editor, Leap Day Celebrant

Leap Day occurs on Feb. 29 every four years as a way to ensure that our modern calendar stays in line with how long the Earth actually takes to rotate around the sun. In actuality, it looks more like 365.25 days, meaning that every four years that equates to an additional day. If we were to ignore this, the months would be unrecognizable as we know them, and for every 100 years we would be roughly 25 days off, or almost a month off rotation. 

Julius Caesar introduced this idea to the calendar as he saw the issue with the alignment and its correlation with the Earth’s true rotation time around the Sun, but his “idea” was stolen from the Egyptians, despite his accreditation for the idea (it’s no wonder he caught those 23 stabs). He added an additional two months to the year 46 BCE as a way to make up for the previous missed leap days. And that worked out for almost 1600 years, but that math was still 11 minutes off, and there needed to be adjustments again (every 128 years we would be a day off). The calendar was changed in 1528 and essentially was modified to add a leap day every four years, but drop three leap days every 400 years. This, too, is still 30 seconds off, so I guess it might just be a lesson that no matter how hard you try, things still might be a little off. This half-minute will not have any real impacts for 3,300 years, so everyone should go thank Pope Gregory XIII.

Aside from the logistical reasons that we have a Leap Day, there are many reasons why people observe and celebrate the day, as it brings along fun and rather interesting traditions. It has become associated with gender reversing in some parts of the world, including a tradition that allows women to propose to men, and because of this it has become known as Bachelor’s day, a day my boyfriend ended up mysteriously getting sick this year…interesting. 

In other parts of the world it holds more negative connotations and superstitions. In Greek culture, it is bad luck to get married on Leap Day, or even during leap years at all! Despite the time and distance from this superstition’s origin, Greek couples around the world still, to this day, avoid tying the knot on the 29.

People born on this quadrennial event are called leaplings and obviously are only able to celebrate their true birthday every four years. Feb. 29 is also the rarest birthday, as you only have a one in 1461 chance of being born on that day. With so few around the world, leaplings have been organizing to find one another in the spirit of community. In Anthony, Texas and Anthony, New Mexico there are parades to celebrate the Leaplings, and others have organized entire cruises filled with folks born on the 29. 

The New York Times cited an informal poll that showed a 50-50 split of people who, on Leap Day years, celebrated on Feb. 28 versus Mar. 1. Although, many people also divulged that they celebrate both days, because they can! Despite the administrative issues that tend to arise for Leaplings, many claim that they love their birthday and wouldn’t trade it for a “normal” birthday. To all of our Leapling readers, Happy Birthday, and don’t forget to crack those “I’m only 5 today” jokes. 

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