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It only comes around every 4 years — it’s leap day!

 

Photo from Pixabay

It doesn’t come around every year. But you’ll find it in 2020. It’s February 29 — also known as Leap Day.

Hop in to find out the details about this extra day of the year!


What is it?

February 29 in blocks on a little truck

Thanee Hengpatt/123RF

Leap Day generally happens every four years. It’s when we add February 29 to the calendar.

This causes the year to become 366 days long instead of the typical 365. Years containing a leap day are called leap years.


Why do we sometimes add a day to the calendar?

Earth orbiting around the sun

Eleina Schweitzer/123rf

We do it to play catch-up. Here’s the scoop.

A year is based on the time it takes for the Earth to orbit around the Sun once. It takes about 365 days and 6 hours for the Earth to do this.

Over the years, those extra 6 hours can add up. To make up for this, another 24 hours is added to the calendar during certain years. That’s why we sometimes end up with February 29.

If a leap day wasn't added to the calendar, it would affect the seasons. For instance, after a few hundred years, the month of July would take place in the spring instead of the summertime.


What do you call a person who is born on Leap Day?

person jumping

Photo by Stephen Poff licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

A person born on February 29 is called a leaper or leapling. It turns out about four million people around the world are born on Leap Day. 

In non-leap years, February 29 doesn’t exist. So leapers have to celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1.

That said, some countries have their own rules when it comes to a leaper’s birthday in non-leap years.

For instance, in New Zealand, a person born on Leap Day celebrates their official birthday on February 28. But in England and Hong Kong, a leaper’s birthday is said to be on March 1.


Are there any superstitions regarding Leap Day?

crazy wedding cake topper

Photo by Pulpolux!!! licensed CC BY-NC 2.0 

While some people consider it lucky to be born on February 29, others disagree.

In Scotland, it’s thought that people born on Leap Day are doomed to have bad luck.

And in Greece, it’s considered bad luck for couples to marry at any time during a leap year, especially on Leap Day.


Are there any unusual Leap Day records?

The Estes family of leap day children

Including Xavier and Remington, Jade is the third of Louise Estes's five children to be born on Leap Day (AP Photo/The Daily Herald, Mark Johnston)

The Henriksen family from Norway set the Guinness World Record for the most children born on February 29 in the same family. Its three leap babies were all born on February 29, including a daughter in 1960 and two sons in 1964 and 1968.

And an American family tied this record. The Estes’ two sons were born on February 29 in 2004 and 2008, and they welcomed a daughter on Leap Day in 2012. What are the odds?