Leap Year 2016: Why 29 February only happens every four years

Leap Year: When is it, why does it happen and everything else you need to know about the leap year in 2016. Monday is Feb 29, making 2016 a “leap year” with February having 29 days instead of the more typical 28. It’s an occurrence that happens every four years but have you ever wondered why? Leap days are needed to keep our calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun.


Why do we have leap year?

Leap years are used to keep the calendar in sync with the Earth’s orbit. The Gregorian calendar, the most widely used across the globe, measures a year to be 365 days following the Earth’s orbit around the sun.

The simple explanation for leap year: It takes the Earth approximately 365.242189 days or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 47 seconds for the Earth to circumnavigate the sun. A year on Earth is only 365 days, leave us those extra hours, minutes and seconds just hanging out there. The solution to the extra time is to combine them every four years and add one more day- Feb 29 on the calendar. If we didn’t use up the time it would add up and eventually we’d wind up with what we now consider summer months in the middle of winter.

February was chosen as the month to have the leap day as it is the only month without 30 or 31 days.

It has long been suggested that February only has 28 days due to the jealousy of Roman Emperors.

The History of leap year

When Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar in 46 BC, it had 365 days with 366 every fourth year. That calendar, however, gave February 30 days and August 29. Under Julius Caesar, February had 30 days and the month named after him – July – had 31. August had only 29 days. That didn’t sit well with Caesar Augustus. When he took control, he moved things around, giving August 31 days and reducing February to 28.

In 1582, the United Kingdom moved to the Gregorian calendar (named for Pope Gregory XIII) and it was determined it took longer than the exact 365 days for the Earth to navigate the sun. Leap day (Feb. 29) was added to solve this problem but even that’s not a perfect solution. To make up for that problem, the Gregorian calendar removes three leap days every 400 years.

What if you’re born on February 29?

The chances of having a leap birthday are one in 1,461. People who are born on February 29 are referred to as “leaplings”, or “leapers”. In non-leap years, many leaplings choose to celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1, while purists stick to February 29 for the occasion.

Some suggest those born before midday on February 29 should celebrate their birthdays on February 28, while those born in the afternoon and evening of the 28th should celebrate their special day on March 1 (St.David’s Day).

About 4.1 million people around the world have been born on the 29th.

Pisces is the zodiac sign of a person born on February 29, and amethyst is the birthstone for this month.

The theory says:

As the theory goes. August was then only 29 days long, he took two off February for the benefit of August.

In reality, there is evidence that the direct predecessor of the Gregorian calendar, the Julian Calendar marked February with 28 days before August became a 31-day month.

If someone is born on February 29 in the UK, their legal date of birth is treated on non-leap-years as March 1.