The Joseph Group

It’s Leap Year!

February 23, 2024

To Inspire:

It’s a leap year, a year with one extra day. Why do we do this? And what should we do with this extra day?

Leap days are needed to keep our calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the Sun. It actually takes the Earth a tiny bit longer than 365 days to circle the sun – approximately 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds longer. Without an extra day added (nearly) every four years, we would lose almost six hours every year. After only 100 years, our calendar would be off by approximately 24 days!

It was Julius Caesar who introduced the first leap year, sometime around 46 B.C., but his math was off. Originally, any year evenly divisible by four would be a leap year, but this created too many leap years. This was finally fixed more than 1,500 years later, when Pope Gregory XIII introduced his Gregorian calendar, which we use today.

If you’re like me, you think that leap year happens every four years, but that’s not true. There is a leap year every year that is divisible by four, except for years that are both divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400. For example, the year 2000 was a leap year – divisible by both 100 and 400, but the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not. The added rule about centuries (versus just every four years) was an additional fix to make up for the fact that an extra day every four years is too much of a correction.

Why is leap day in February? Well, in 1752, the Calendar Act was implemented, moving the new year for the British from March 25 (Anglicans’ Feast of the Annunciation) to the more familiar Jan. 1 and formalizing the quadrennial intercalary day – leap day – to be referred to going forward as Feb. 29, which has since become the international standard.

While leap day is just another day for most of us, there are approximately five million people worldwide with leap day birthdays. These people, known as leaplings, love to celebrate their unusual birthdays. In non-leap years, these leaplings must decide whether to celebrate on February 28th or on March 1st. And if you ask a leapling how old they are, you will likely get two answers. There’s even a leap year club, The Honor Society of Leap Year Babies, with more than 11,000 members.

Leap day/year also inspires some traditions and superstitions around the world, including:

In the United Kingdom, women can propose to men on leap day. While the idea that only men can propose marriage is outdated, many still choose to follow that tradition. It’s said to be an Irish custom that, according to legend, dates back to the 5th century. The story goes that Saint Brigid of Kildare thought that many women had to wait too long for a proposal. She agreed with Saint Patrick that women could propose every four years.

In Ireland, the birthplace of the leap day proposal, February 29 is also known as Bachelor’s Day. Historically, if a man refused a proposal, the woman would have to be given a gift to compensate for the disappointment.

In the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, there’s a tradition where on the eve of May 1, men decorate a birch tree with paper ribbons, then place it in front of the house of a girlfriend, wife, or crush. On February 29 this is reversed, with women decorating these trees.

In France, there is a newspaper that is only printed every four years – on leap day. La Bougie du Sapeur, which translates to Sapper’s Candle, is named after a character from an old French comic trip. This paper has been running since 1980, and usually outsells the national newspapers each time it is printed.

Leap day falls on a Thursday this year, so if you’re still working, chances are you’ll be at work that day. But if you have the chance, do something special with this special day. Start a leap day tradition with your kids or grandkids or write a letter to yourself to open on the next leap day in 2028. Whatever you do, enjoy your extra day!





Written by Michelle O’Brien, Manager of Marketing & Communications





Sources: Newall, Sally. 8 leap year traditions and superstitions from around the world. CountryLiving.com. De Guzman, Chad. Who Decided Februay 29th is Leap Day? Time.com. Washington, Julie. It’s Leap Year! Cleveland.com