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“Leaping” Into March

Triangle on the cheap
leaping into march!

February 29, 2024, was a leap day. There was an extra day this year instead of the normal 28 days of February. As you probably know, this bonus day is added every four years and these years are called leap years. But what’s the point of leap years? What would happen if humans never began adding February 29 to the calendar every few years? And why is it called leap year anyway? Keep reading to find out.

The 365-day “common” years (no added day) are roughly the length that it takes for the Earth to complete one orbit around the sun. However, 365 is a rounded number and it technically takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 56 seconds for this orbit to happen. So if this time was never accounted for, the seasons would slowly start to shift until eventually (approximately 700 years), summer would take place in December. This would be not just annoying but disastrous. So, thanks to Julius Caesar introducing an extra day every four years, our seasons are kept in line. 

If you do the math, you’ll discover that the difference between the calendar years and the leap year isn’t a perfect 24 hours; it’s actually 23.262222 hours. This means that if we add a day to the year exactly every four years, the calendar is extended by 44 minutes. Eventually, those 44 minutes would also trigger the seasons to drift from their rightful months. This is why not every four years is a leap year. “Every 100 years, we skip the leap… unless the year is evenly divisible by 400,” according to 2000 was a leap year, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 were normal years. 

A leap year is called a leap year because the days “leap” over. A normal year is 52 weeks and one day long, so if your birthday were on a Monday one year, it would be on a Tuesday the next year, assuming it was a common year. However, with a leap year adding an extra day, your birthday “leaps over a day,” as the National Air and Space Museum puts it. So if it were a leap year, your birthday would occur on a Wednesday, not Tuesday. 

Some cultures believe that February 29 is an unlucky day for love. They think getting married on this day will result in an unhappy marriage, according to In Greece, it’s believed that even getting married any time during a leap year sets a gloomy tone for the marriage. 

Important note: if someone is born on February 29, they do not age slower (a common misconception). These leap day babies, called leaplings, usually just celebrate on March 1 during regular years. Another thing about leaplings is that they are said to have unique talents that set them apart. For example, Gioachino Rossino, a famous Italian composer who made particularly comic operas, was born on February 29, 1792. The only person known to have lived and died on a leap day was Sir James Wilson, Premier of Tasmania (1812–1880).

To conclude, there is much more to leap day than most people assume. The science, history, and random facts pertaining to it are many. All this to say, happy late leap day!

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About the Contributor
Hannah Stickney
Hannah Stickney, Staff Writer

Hi, I’m Hannah and I’m a Junior. This is my third year in Journalism and my second year writing for the Banner. I’m doing the digital media program at CAL. I love reading and writing, Taylor Swift, the beach, and sunsets.

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