What you may not have known about Leap Day


Three hundred sixty-five days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds.

This is exactly how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun. Since it takes a little longer than a full year, the hours accumulate over time, requiring an extra day be added to the calendar every four years.

Not every four years is a leap year, however. For example, 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, despite being divisible by 4.

What most people don’t know is there are actually multiple criteria a year has to meet to be considered a leap year. Yes, typically every four years is a leap year, but if it’s a centurial year, it has to be divisible by both four and 400, instead of just four. If not, it’s not a leap year.

The calendar in use today was developed about 1,500 years ago, according to TimeAndDate.com. Thanks to the Georgians and their revised calendar, people throughout the world have saved upward of 24 days a century. That’s valuable time to be used on homework … or vacationing.

Leap days are special for plenty of other reasons, too. Some students, like Whitney Steed, a sophomore from Alberta, Canada, majoring in chemical engineering, were born on leap day. Although Steed is technically turning 20, today is officially her fifth birthday.

“I haven’t had a birthday since I was 16,” Steed said. “I usually just span it out between [Feb.] 28 and [March] 1.”

Leap-day babies are known as “leaplings.” Steed said waiting four years for her actual birthday makes it even more special.

“It’s pretty unique,” Steed said. “It makes it fun on the years I do have a birthday.”

Emma Vidmar, a sophomore from Spokane, Wash., majoring in graphic design, is also turning 20 today, and said she likes to take advantage of the fact she’s technically only five.

“I love that I get to have really childish themed parties and totally get away with it,” Vidmar said. “For instance, last year for my 4.75th birthday, I made sure to have finger paint, Play-Doh and mac and cheese. This year I’m doing a costume party — princess and pirate themed.”

Vidmar said she always likes looking forward to and anticipating a milestone birthday while others have to wait.

“As we grow up, there are a lot of milestone birthdays,” Vidmar said. “But once you reach 21, there aren’t really any milestones close together. While other people’s birthdays start to lose flavor, mine only get more delicious as I start to anticipate an actual birthday.”

Unique birthdays aren’t the only special events that take place on leap day. Women all over the world take advantage of leap day as a chance to take the initiative and propose to their loved ones. Gaye Strathearn, a religion professor at BYU, said her nephew’s girlfriend has been waiting for him to propose. Since he hasn’t yet, she’s taking the reins.

“I just think it’s a fun thing to do,” Strathearn said.

She said although women can certainly propose to men at other times, it’s fun for them to have one day every four years to use as an excuse to propose.

Local companies are celebrating, too. Many companies, such as Groupon, Southwest Airlines, Fashion Place and several local restaurants, are offering special discounts and offers today only.

Regardless of the celebration, leap day is clearly considered a day for spontaneity.

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