Why Are There Leap Years & Other Interesting Leap Year Facts

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Ever wondered why are there leap years and how they came about? We answer some questions about leap years and leap days.

Why are there leap years?

Leap years take place once every four years with an added day, known as leap day, added on to the month of February. In other words, leap years have 366 days.

The origins of leap years have to do with the earth’s rotation around the sun.

We all know that a calendar year has 365 days, which is the time it takes for the earth to complete an orbit around the sun – except it doesn’t.

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To be accurate, the earth takes 365 ¼ days to go around the sun. To even more accurate, the precise time it takes for the earth to go around the sun is 365.25635 days.

However, to make it simple for everyone, this number is rounded to 365 for the calendar.

However, to bring our calendars back in sync with the earth’s actual orbit around the sun, an extra day is added to February – hence we get leap years.

Not every year evenly divisible by the number 4 is a leap year

As leap years take place once every four years, it is tempting to think that we can just take any year and divide it by the number four to determine if it is a leap year. This is true for the last few several leap years, i.e. 2020, 2016, 2012, 2008, 2004 and 2000.

However, the Gregorian calendar – the official name of the calendar we use every day – wanted to account for the fact that a year is not exactly 365 ¼ days. To adjust for this slight misalignment, it states that a year which can be evenly divided by 100 (such as 1900) is a leap year only if it can also be evenly divisible by 400.

Applying this rule, 1700, 1800, 1900 are all not leap years even though they can be evenly divided by 4.

The year 2000 was divisible by both 100 and 400 and hence it WAS a leap year.

The next exception to the “divisible by four” rule will be 2100.

If my birthday falls on 29 Feb and there have only been 7 leap years in the last 28 years, does that make me 7 years old?

This is a classic question. Unless you are a kid whose parents are trying to cut back on birthday parties or someone who really wants to remain a kid, the answer is no. Most people whose birthdays fall on 29 Feb celebrate on either 28 Feb or 1 Mar each year. Legally, you still go up in age every year, even if it is not a leap year. Sorry.

What are leaplings?

The cool thing about being born on the leap day is you can call yourself a special name – a “leapling” or a “leaper” or a “leap baby”.

Who are some famous people born on Leap Day?

Famous leap babies include rapper Ja Rule (1976), motivational speaker Anthony Robbins (1960) and composer of the Barber of Seville Gioachino Rossini (1792).

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