Today is Leap Day 2016, but what does that mean exactly? Why do we even add a day every four years?
Well, here’s the nitty-gritty on Leap Year and Leap Day.
Why is there a Leap Year?
Our lovely little planet does not orbit the sun exactly every 365 days. We actually make a complete 584 million mile cycle around the sun once ever 365.256 days. So we need to account for that extra .256 days, because believe it or not, they add up.
What would happen if there was no Leap Year?
If we didn’t have a leap year, then the months would actually cycle through the seasons and the Northern Hemisphere would experience winter in July about every 800 years.
The history behind Leap Year
Leap year occurs in every year that is divisible by four and only in century years that are evenly divided by 400. For example, 1200 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700 and 1900 were not.
The Romans were the ones that started adding the extra day in 46 B.C., decreed by Julius Caesar creating the Julian calendar. However the Julian calendar doesn’t follow the ‘century divisible by 400’ rule so there is still and extra 11 minutes, 14 second discrepancy every year.
Pope Gregory XIII discovered that by the year 1582 A.D. the Julian calendar had added ten days, so he created the Gregorian calendar and dropped ten days from the month of October that year. Gregory also established February 29 as the officially added leap day. An interesting fact to the Gregorian calendar is that the solar year is about 26 seconds shorter than the Gregorian year.
If you are born on leap day, when do you celebrate your birthday?
Most people born on leap day celebrate their birthdays (in the ‘off years’) on February 28th, because after all… they were born on the last day of February.