The Story Behind Leap Year

Sarah Skinner

A year consists of roughly 365.25 days. Thinking back to basic math, when four quarters add up, it makes $1. Every four years, that quarter of a day adds up and creates a new day, February 29, which is commonly referred to as a leap year. 2020 is one of those years.

A leap year was created in hopes to keep the seasons synchronized with the calendar.

Although an extra day would be a lot more beneficial in the summer, there’s historic reason behind February getting the extra day.

Julius Caesar was the one created the idea of a leap year, according to Caesar “revamped” the Roman calendar in 46 BCE by accounting for the extra day. Then, Pope Gregory XIII, of modern day Italy, used Caesar’s calendar as a base to perfect the calendar we use today. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII declared February 29th as leap years’ official date, according to the same source. He fixed minor errors to make sure it lined up with the sun exactly.

In 2020, we celebrate that extra date.

People born a day that only occurs 25 days out of a century are referred to as “leaplings.” According to, in 2016, there were only 187,000 born on the special Feb. 29 in the United States, and approximately four million others worldwide.

According to the same source, there are many traditions and superstitions about the day. For example, dating back to fifth century Ireland, February 29 was the day women proposed to their man if he was taking too long to ask her. In Greece, couples view getting married during a leap year as bad luck. Italians suggest women should refrain from making any major life decisions until the year ends. Some Russians are known to trust that leap years bring death and unorthodox weather patterns, and Scottish farmers look at leap years as causing bad crops.

No matter where you’re from, celebrate this leap year with excitement. Afterall, those 187,000 people are celebrating their birthday for the first time since 2016 and the last until 2024.

Photo by Sarah Skinner