Once every four years, we elect a new president, watch the Olympics, and experience the bewildering phenomena of Leap Year.
We have a family friend whose daughter was born on Feb 29th, and my kids love teasing her about how she is really only two years old. However, every four years, this kid gets an unbelievable birthday party so the teasing is probably worth it. As we gear up for this year’s celebration, my kids asked why we have 29 days only every four years… and I realized, I don’t actually know. It’s one of those things I’ve always taken for granted.
What’s the Deal with this Leap Year Thing Anyway?
I headed to the internet (naturally!) to find out the scoop on this Leap Year thing. It turns out that a tropical year is actually 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds. This is the exact amount of time it takes the Earth to circle once around the sun and this is what our modern day Gregorian calendar is based on. But notice that extra 5+ hours? It may not seem like a lot, but if we didn’t add an extra day every four years to compensate for those extra hours and minutes, after 100 years our calendar would be off by 24 days. Multiply that 24 days by 500 years and pretty soon we really would be celebrating Christmas in July!
I learned something else that is fairly interesting as well. Leap Years don’t automatically occur every four years. In order to qualify as a Leap Year, the dates have to meet the following criteria:
- The year can be evenly divided by 4;
- If the year can be evenly divided by 100, it is NOT a leap year, unless;
- The year is also evenly divisible by 400. Then it is a leap year.
This means that in the Gregorian calendar, the years 2000 and 2400 are leap years, while 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, 2300 and 2500 are not leap years. That’s a lot more complicated than I realized. And technically it means even fewer birthdays for our family friend.
Prepare to wow your kids (and any adults who ask) with these fascinating facts as you take advantage of one glorious extra day this year. We hope you enjoy it.
Cricket Media Mama would just like to point out that if you’re on a fixed annual salary, you are working for free on Feb 29, 2016. That’s all.