8 Fun Facts About Leap Year You Probably Didn’t Know
It's that time again — Leap Year! While most people know that Leap Year only comes around once every four years, there are plenty of obscure fun facts you probably aren’t aware of.
Whether you were born on February 29th, or you just want to brush up on your trivia knowledge, here are some cool Leap Year facts worth knowing!
1. The real reason we have Leap Year
Contrary to what you might think, Leap Year isn't something that was instituted out of the blue. Leap Years are actually necessary so that every other year can be exactly 365 days.
Bear with me as I get scientific for a moment – but in a fun way, of course!
A year is the amount of time it takes for the Earth to make one total rotation around the sun. But that amount of time isn’t exactly 365 days. It’s actually 365 days, five hours, 48 hours, and 46 seconds.
But trying to make every year 365 ¼ days would be confusing, so we take those extra hours and tack them together for an extra day every four years, giving us Leap Year.
While this might not seem like the most fun fact ever, it's the most important one to know when it comes to Leap Year.
2. The first Leap Year was more than 2,000 years ago
Can you believe the idea of Leap Year was invented in 46 BCE? Any Roman history buff could guess that it was instituted by none other than Julius Caesar.
Caesar came up with the idea around the same time he invented the original 365-day calendar. This was also the point when he decided that every new year should start on January 1 rather than March 1, as had previously been the case.
3. You get a special name if you're born on Leap Day
If you have the rare honor of celebrating your birthday on Leap Day, you're known as a Leaper or Leapling. However, this also means you only get to celebrate your actual birthday every four years, so getting a special name is the least the world can do for you.
Additionally, since you only celebrate your true birthday every four years, Leapers get to choose whether they celebrate on March 1 or February 28 on non-Leap Years.
4. Your odds of being a Leaper are small
Because Leap Year only happens once every four years, your odds of being born on this prestigious day are quite small — only about 1 in 1,461. It's estimated that about 4 million people alive today celebrate their birthdays on Leap Day.
5. The odds of a Leaper dying on Leap Day are even smaller
If you thought the chances of being born on Leap Day were small, what about a Leaper dying on their actual birthday? According to an article published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, a Leap Day baby has about a 1 in 2,143,521 of dying on Leap Day.
One of the few recorded instances of this happening belongs to James Milne Wilson, who would go on to become the Premier of Tasmania. Wilson was born on February 29, 1812, and died on February 29, 1880. While he was technically 68 years old when he died, he only had 17 actual birthdays!
6. Leap Day is a day of love
Another fun fact about Leap Day is that it's considered a day of love. If you've ever seen the movie "Leap Year" starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, you know where I'm going with this. The protagonist, frustrated by her boyfriend’s lack of commitment, travels to Dublin to invoke a popular Irish tradition – promising to him herself on February 29th.
Even today, the idea of a woman proposing to a man is nearly unheard of. Sure, it’s much more culturally acceptable than it was in the past, but traditionally, men always proposed to women — not the other way around.
The Leap Day proposal tradition has roots in 5th century Ireland. As the story goes, St. Brigid of Kildare complained that women were often forced to wait too long to receive a proposal from their significant others. By the 13th century, the idea spread to Scotland, where a law was implemented legally allowing women to propose on a Leap Year. If a man turned down a woman’s proposal, he had to pay a fine, which often amounted to no more than a kiss.
This tradition, which is still alive today, made way for other traditions empowering women to take the lead, such as the Sadie Hawkins dance.
7. Some cultures don't like Leap Year
While most cultures observe Leap Year and consider February 29th a day of luck and joy, it's the exact opposite for others.
Greece, Spain, and Italy, for example, consider the entire Leap Year to be full of bad luck. They even go as far as cautioning couples not to plan weddings during Leap Year for fear that their marriages will be doomed!
8. You can celebrate Leap Year with a special cocktail
In 1928, legendary English bartender Harry Craddock invented a special cocktail in honor of Leap Day. Dubbed the Leap Day Cocktail, this drink is similar to a martini and is said to have been responsible for more proposals than any other drink on record!
Luckily, Craddock put more thought into the ingredients of his famous drink than he did into its name. To make his historic Leap Day Cocktail, you’ll need:
- ½ ounce sweet Vermouth
- ¾ ounce orange liqueur (ex. Grand Marnier)
- One dash of lemon juice
- 2 ounces London Dry gin
Make the most of this Leap Year
With Leap Day right around the corner, you're now equipped with enough fun facts to impress your friends, family members, and coworkers. Who knows, you might even score big on trivia night!