I’ve never met anyone born on Leap Day, but a friend of mine and his twin brother came really close. My friend John was born on February 28, 1956. A few hours later and he would have been celebrating his 16th birthday today instead of having celebrated his 64th yesterday. In actuality, the odds of being born on Leap Day are 1 in 1,461.
Leap Day happens almost every four years. Did you notice I said “almost”? Years that end in “00” but aren’t divisible by 400 don’t have a Leap Day. Most of us will never see it in our lifetime. The last time this happened was the year 1900. We won’t skip Leap Day again until the year 2100.
So why the weird finagling with the calendar? We know the earth orbits the sun approximately every 365¼ days. It’s this “approximately” that messes us up. The real number is 365.242189. So if we skip Leap Day three times every 400 years, we hit it right on.
A few other fun facts about Leap Day:
1. People born on Leap Day are called “leaplings” or “leapers.” In Hong Kong, the legal birthday of a leapling is March 1. In New Zealand, it’s February 28.
2. There’s a club for people born on February 29—The Honor Society of Leap Year Babies. The club has more than 10,000 members worldwide.
3. One in five engaged couples in Greece will avoid marrying during a leap year because they believe it’s bad luck.
4. In Finland, it’s supposed to be good luck for a woman to propose on Leap Day. If her boyfriend refuses her proposal, he is required to pay her a fine—enough fabric to make a skirt.
5. In Ireland, the man who refuses a Leap Day proposal must buy her a silk gown.
6. And there’s a movie about it. In the 2010 romantic comedy Leap Year, a woman travels to Ireland to propose to her boyfriend on Leap Day, which tradition says he has to accept.
So, ladies, if you’ve gotten tired of your special someone to propose, today’s your day. For everyone else, however you choose to celebrate this holiday that comes around only once every four years, have fun!