Why Are There 29 Days in February This Year? A Look Into Leap Day History

Mira Branham | Reporter


One year is equal to 365 days… technically. Every four years, the trend is broken and 366 days are recorded on the calendar: all thanks to an extra day inserted onto the end of February. Here’s why we “leap forward” every few cycles.

There are three facts about Feb. 29 you should know:

  1. It actually takes the Earth 365.2421 days to orbit the sun entirely. The current calendar is based around an estimated orbit of 365.25 days (modified by Pope Gregory XIII in the 1500s), although Julius Caesar is credited with introducing the Leap Day. As a result of rounding, the Gregorian calendar is off by only one day every 3,030 years, so we’re good for now.
  2. It’s a worldwide joke that people born on Feb. 29 are only one-fourth of their age (a now 16-year-old would technically only be four years old), but the chances of being born on this day are only about one in 1,461. The five million lucky ducklings alive today are called Leaplings, and they include hip-hop artist Ja Rule, Foster the People’s lead singer, Mark Foster, and Law & Order actor Peter Scanavino.
  3. It’s a common custom for men to propose marriage to women, but some couples in Ireland, Scotland, England, and Greece flip gender roles when Feb. 29 comes around. On this day, women propose to their male counterparts, in part because it’s the day St. Patrick designated it legal back in the early ages. The long-standing tradition has led certain nations to dually dub Leap Day as “Bachelor’s Day”.

The spirit of Leap Year continues into modern day traditions and media. Looking to celebrate? Here are our suggestions:

  1. Watch Leap Year (2010) – The film follows a real estate worker (Amy Adams) who heads to Ireland to ask her boyfriend to accept her wedding proposal on leap day, when tradition supposedly holds that men cannot refuse a woman’s proposal for marriage. Her plans are interrupted by a series of events and are further complicated when she hires an Irish innkeeper (Matthew Goode) to take her to her boyfriend in Dublin.
  2. Read Leap Year: How Small Steps Can Make a Difference – Like many of us, Helen Russell suffers from chronic indecision and a fear of change, so she decides to give herself a year for an experiment: to overhaul every area of her life, learn how to embrace change, and become a lean, mean decision-making machine. From how to cope with changing work lives and evolving relationships, to how we feel about our bodies, money and well-being, Helen investigates the benefits of new beginnings, the secrets of decisive people and what makes changes last. She uncovers the practical life lessons we can all use to thrive when change is afoot, and injects some freshness and magic if it’s not.
  3. Feb. 29 Leap Year Indy Downtown Chilling Chatham Arch Ghost Walk – Set in the Theatre District in Downtown Indianapolis, industry meets society in this spine-tingling look at one of the most interesting areas of Indianapolis. Learn of Dr. Helene Knabe, Cockroach Row and Jolly Werner, all of which lead to mayhem, and eternal life on earth after death.

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