Cumbria Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Jan Harris
Deputy Group Editor
1:00 AM 29th February 2024

So What Is A Leap Year?

photo by Denise Mattox
photo by Denise Mattox
Yes, 2024 is a leap year.

So what is a leap year? It is a year which has 366 days instead of the usual 365. 2024 is a leap year and so today being the 29 February is known as a leap day.

Why do we have leap years?

Image by Мансур Тляков from Pixabay
Image by Мансур Тляков from Pixabay
If the Earth’s orbit took exactly 365 days there would be no need for leap years.

The solar year is 365.2422 days, the time it takes for the earth to circle the sun and is called a Tropical year. If we didn't have a leap year every four years we would lose nearly six hours every year. This might seem only a small difference, but over time if we only had 365 day years the calendar would slip.

It would only be in 100 years before our calendar would be off by 24 days in relation to fixed seasonal days like the vernal equinox or the winter solstice. After three centuries January would come in the autumn and after six centuries it would be in the summer.

Image by Simple-aign from Pixabay
Image by Simple-aign from Pixabay
The Julian calendar

A leap day has been a day of traditions, folklore and superstitions ever since leap years were first introduced by Julius Caesar.

Julius Caesar first introduced the idea of leap days over 2000 years ago at the end of February in 45BC, as this was the last month in the Julian calendar.

Leap year proposal

On 29 February the most well known tradition, associated with folklore, age-old customs and superstition, is that women can propose to their men on a leap day, instead of the other way round.

Image by Romana from Pixabay
Image by Romana from Pixabay
It is believed that this goes back to the time when a leap day was not recognised by English law. The day then had no legal status and so on that day it was alright to break with the convention of the man proposing.

This tradition has also been attributed to St Bridget in 5th Century Ireland, who complained to St Patrick about women having to wait too long for men to propose, to which St Patrick allowed women to propose on 29 February, although this tradition has been much disputed.

Leap year babies

The chance of being born on a leap day is often said to be one in 1,461.

A baby born on the 29 February is known as a ‘leapling’ and immediately becomes a member of an exclusive club, The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies which is only for people born on leap day. This club started in 1997.

When it isn’t a leap year, leap year babies can decide when to celebrate their birthday, either on 28 February or 1 March.

Here are 29 celebrity leaplings:

Ja Rule (rapper)
Tony Robbins (motivational speaker and life coach)
Peter Scanavino (actor, stars in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit")
Mark Foster (lead singer of the band Foster the People)
Dennis Farina (actor, known for his roles in 'Crime Story' and 'Law & Order')
Dinah Shore (singer, talk show host)
Jessie Usher (actor, co-starred in 'Independence Day: Resurgence')
Ken Foree (actor, best known from the horror film 'Dawn of the Dead')
Saul Williams (rapper)
Jimmy Dorsey (big band leader, saxophonist)
Cam Ward (hockey player)
Cullen Jones (Olympic medal-winning swimmer)
Al Rosen (Major League Baseball player)
Henri Richard (hockey player)
Monte Kiffin (football coach)
Pedro Sánchez (prime minister of Spain)
Bart Stupak (former U.S. representative)
Alex Rocco (actor, played Moe Greene in 'The Godfather')
Jack Lousma (NASA astronaut)
Sir Lucian Grainge (businessman, chief executive officer of Universal Music Group)
Michèle Morgan (French film actor)
James Mitchell (actor, best known for the soap opera 'All My Children')
Gioachino Antonio Rossini (composer)
Joss Ackland (British actor)
Pepper Martin (Major League Baseball player)
William Wellman (Oscar-winning screenwriter and film director)
Taylor Twellman (soccer player)
Jessica Long (Paralympic swimmer)
Chris Conley (Singer and guitar player in the band Saves the Day)

It has been recorded that about 5 million people around the world have been born on 29 February. That means about 0.06% of the 8 billion people on our planet.

Photo by Jemma Pollari on Unsplash
Photo by Jemma Pollari on Unsplash