Since 2016 is a leap year—meaning February has 29 days—we thought we’d share some fun leap year facts with you. From Irish folklore to pop culture, leap year has an interesting history… even Julius Caesar had something to do with it! Here’s the scoop on why we add an extra day to our calendar every four years.
Not just another day...
Every four years, we add 1 day to our calendar… and that’s because of the time it takes the Earth to circle around the Sun. It takes our planet slightly more than 365 days (an additional 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds, to be exact), to complete its orbit. Leap years is how we account for those extra hours in our calendar.
Shake up those gender roles
An Irish tradition practiced as far back as the 5th century encourages women to propose to their boyfriends on February 29. Legend has it that St. Brigid asked St. Patrick to grant permission for women to pop the question to suitors who were too shy to ask for their hand.
So if you’re waiting for your man to propose, this might be the year to take matters into your own hands!
On the silver screen
Yes, a movie has actually been made about the leap year proposal tradition, and it’s aptly called “Leap Year.” In it, Amy Adams’ character takes advantage of this ancient custom to try and bring her relationship with her boyfriend to the next level… but things don’t go exactly as she planned.
Even though the Ancient Egyptians had it figured out long before it became official, it was Julius Caesar who inserted leap year into the Julian calendar in 46 B.C. Unfortunately, Caesar miscalculated and ended up with too many leap years; it would be another 1,500 years before the Gregorian Calendar made things right.
The Chinese calendar includes a whole leap month every three years. The last Chinese leap year was in 2015.
There is only a very slim chance (1 in 1,461) of being born on a leap day, but it turns out that four million people worldwide have February 29th birthdays.
An exclusive club
People with Feb. 29th birthdays have a pretty cute nickname to go with their unique date of birth: they’re called “leaplings.” They solve the birthday conundrum by celebrating either on February 28 or March 1 during non-leap years. Famous leaplings include rapper Ja Rule and poet/musician Saul Williams.
In many cultures, babies born on leap day are thought to be particularly talented or gifted. So if you’re a leapling, or you know a leapling, look out for those unique qualities.
Good or bad?
Unlike the Irish, Greeks believe the opposite about marriage during a leap year—it’s considered very bad luck to propose or hold a wedding on leap day, or at any time during the year.
Leap year has a capital
The twin cities of Anthony, TX and Anthony, NM is the self-proclaimed Leap Year Capitals of the World. They celebrate every four years with a festival.