Leap Day Lore & Facts

Carolyn’s Online Magazine (#COMe)


Leap year is a once-in-four-year event, so make today, February 29, 2016, extra special. Take that extra LEAP.

Happy Leap Year Day!

Once every four years, an extra day is added to the month of February, taking it from 28 to 29 days.

NOTE: The WordPress writing prompt for February 29, 2016, today is Leap: a one word prompt. Since this is Leap Day I offer this post.


The Earth orbits the sun once every 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 47 seconds (365.2421 days), but our calendar is only 365 days long. There must be a shortfall adjustment.

The idea is not new. It dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who were the first to realize the need for a leap year. However, the Romans first brought it into practice in Europe.

About 46 B.C., Julius Caesar introduced the first leap year with the Julian calendar having only one rule: any year evenly divisible by four would be a leap year. However, that created too many leap years.

The math wasn’t tweaked until Pope Gregory XIII introduced his Gregorian calendar more than 1,500 years later, creating a leap year every year that is divisible by four except for years that are both divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400.

Thus, the year 2000 was a leap year, but the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 are not.

The extra day was added to February because Roman emperors named months after themselves (July and August, for example). The emperors kept on poaching extra days to make their months longer, a kind of “mine is longer than yours” competition. February was left short at 28 days, and was the obvious choice to even out the calendar.

Even with the extra day, February remains the shortest month, a fact that school children learn through a medieval English rhyme that ends “…all the rest have 31 except for February alone and that has 28 days clear and 29 in each leap year.”

FYI: Modern Olympics are always held in a Leap Year. This year’s Olympics will be Rio de Janiero in Brazil. A Leap Year also marks the US Presidential elections.


There are interesting traditions connected with Leap Day.

The tradition giving women the right to propose to men on Leap Day dates back to 5th Century Ireland when St Brigid allegedly struck a deal with St Patrick for permission to do this. The best luck goes to those women who wear pants or a red petticoat (to give sharp-eyed suitors fair warning) while down on one knee…the fine (set down by Queen Margaret of Scotland) for scorning a woman’s proposal is either 12 pairs of gloves (to hide the naked ring finger) or a silk dress.

At the time leap year day had no recognition in English law (the day was ‘leapt over’ and ignored, hence the term ‘leap year’). It was decided that the day had no legal status a break in tradition on this day was acceptable.


Persons born on February 29th have exclusive membership to the The Honour Society of Leap Year Day Babies…websites include the option for February 29 birth date when signing up…the society boasts more than 10,000 members of the 4 million Leap Year babies globally.

The law allows persons born in on February 29th to attain the age of 18 on March 1 of their eighteenth year, even though leaplings won’t celebrate their 18th birthday for almost 8 decades.

The city of Anthony, Texas, which sits across the border of two American states (they are twin cities—Anthony, Texas, and Anthony, New Mexico) has nominated itself the Leap Year Capital of the World. It holds a four-day festival, which includes a huge birthday party for Leap Day babies, to celebrate the occasion


The chance of being born on leap day is about 1 in 1,461. Persons born on February 29th can be called a ‘leapling’ or a ‘leaper’.

  • Tony Robbins, motivational speaker
  • Jimmy Dorsey, jazz musician
  • Dennis Farina, actor
  • Antonio Sabato Jr., actor
  • Ja Rule, rapper/actor
  • Pope Paul III (born 1468)
  • Gioacchino Rossini (born 1792), composer
  • Aileen Wuornos, notorious American serial killer (born 1956)
  • Wendi Peters, former Coronation Street star
  • Darren Ambrose, the Crystal Palace midfielder

Three consecutive generations of the Keogh family have been born on February 29th. Peter Anthony was born in Ireland in 1940, his son Peter Eric was born in 1964 and Eric’s daughter Bethany was born in 1996.


The romantic comedy Leap Year, about a would-be bride’s quest to propose to her elusive boyfriend, was released in 2010 to tepid reviews.

The Leap Day William spoof on American television claimed that the character ‘Leap Dave’ visited children on Leap Day to trade their tears for candy.


February 29th in the leap year of 1504 was successful for Christopher Columbus. The famous explorer had been marooned for several months on the small island of Jamaica. Though the island natives had initially offered food and provisions, Columbus’ arrogant and overbearing attitude had so annoyed the natives that they stopped this altogether. Facing starvation, Columbus came up with an inspired plan.  Consulting a shipboard almanac and finding that a lunar eclipse was due, he called together the native chiefs and announced to them that God would punish them if they did not supply his crew with food. And as an omen of God’s intent to punish them, there would be a sign in the sky: God would darken the Moon.  Right on cue, the lunar eclipse started. Columbus dramatically disappeared into his cabin as the natives began to panic and begged him to restore the Moon. After more than an hour, Columbus emerged from his cabin and announced that God was prepared to withdraw his punishment if the natives agreed to supply him and his crew with everything they needed. The native chiefs immediately agreed, and within minutes the Moon started emerging from shadow, leaving the natives in awe of Columbus’ power. Columbus continued to receive food and supplies until he was rescued in June 1504.


February 29 is Rare Disease Day. There are about 7000 diseases considered rare. Examples include Crohns Disease and Tourette Syndrome.

St. Oswald’s Day is named after the archbishop of York who died on February 29, 992. This day is celebrated on that date every leap year and on February 28 on regular years.


About carolyncholland

In several if my nine lives I have been a medical lab technician and a human service worker specializing in child day care, adoptions and family abuse. Currently I am a photo/journalist/writer working on a novel and a short story. My general writings can be viewed at www.carolyncholland.wordpress.com. My novel site is www.intertwinedlove.wordpress.com.
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