2016 is a Leap Year. That means we have an extra day in February. If you were born on February 29th, you get to celebrate your birthday on your actual birth date for a change.
We have Julius Caesar to thank for the first Leap Years. He introduced the idea to the Romans more than 2000 years ago, declaring that any year evenly divisible by four would be a Leap Year. But that led to way too many Leap Years. Still, the practice continued until the Gregorian calendar was introduced 1500 years later.
Today, Leap Years are declared according to three criteria of the Gregorian calendar. First, a Leap Year must be divisible by four….however, if it can be evenly divided by 100, then it is NOT a Leap Year…..unless the year also is evenly divisible by 400…then it IS a Leap Year.
Why do we have Leap Years anyway? They are needed to keep our modern day Gregorian calendar aligned with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. It takes the Earth approximately 365.242199 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds – to circle once around the sun. This is called a tropical year. However, the Gregorian calendar has only 365 days in a year, so if we didn’t add a day on February 29 nearly every 4 years, we would lose almost six hours off our calendar every year. After only 100 years, our calendar would be off by approximately 24 days. (Thank you, timeanddate.com, for that head-spinning scientific, astronomical explanation! If that’s too much history and too many numbers and way more information about Leap Years than you need, we understand.)
Leap Day offers a number of traditions and beliefs – it’s known as a day for women to propose marriage to the man of their choice…it’s the day, in 1692, that the first warrants were issued in the Salem witch trials (some find that significant)…and it’s promoted as a day to “take a leap” and try something you’ve never done before. We also think it would be a great day to catch up on lost sleep and take an extra-long afternoon nap…so maybe that will catch on.
However you choose to mark the year and/or the day, be sure to make it fun. Happy Leaping!