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Why is February 29 special? Facts to know about a leap year


Today is February 29, a date that comes once in four years. Since it is a rare date, it is something that makes us interested to know more about it.

Here are some facts about a leap year:

A leap year is one which has an extra day in the month of February and comes every four years. It occurs because of the solar system's disparity with the Gregorian calendar.


The earth takes 365.2422 days to complete an orbit around the sun while the Gregorian calendar uses 365 days. Hence leaps seconds and leap years come into effect to keep the clocks (and calendars) adjusted to the earth and its seasons.

To calculate a leap year, one has to divide the year number by four. If it is completely divisible, then it is a leap year.

A century, however, cannot be a leap year unless...

A century year is not a leap year unless it is divisible by 400. Thus while 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, 1600, 2000, and 2400 are leap years. Hence, technically, a leap year is not one that comes after every four years.

What is a leap second?

Leap years are not directly related to leap seconds but both keep the earth's rotations in line with the clocks and calendars.

Leap seconds are added to bring the earth's rotation in sync with with atomic time. A leap second was added at the end of June last year just before midnight.

Why February has lesser number of days?

All months in the Julian calendar have 30 or 31 days except February, which normally has 28 days. Under Julius Caeser, February had 30 days and the month named after him (July) had 31. August then had 29 days but Augustus Caeser, Julius's successor, added two days to that to make August same as July. February lost its two days to August.

What if a person is born in a leap year?

The chances of taking birth on a leap birthday are one in almost 1,500. People who are born on February 29 are called 'leaplings' or 'leapers'. In non-leap years, many choose to celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1 while others stick to February 29 for the occasion, i.e., that birthday comes after every four years.

About 4.1 million people around the world have been born on February 29. Pisces is the zodiac sign of a person born on this day.

Notable events that took place on Feb 29:

Lifting of the siege of Sarajevo in 1996, after almost four years.

Pierre Trudeau resigned as Prime Minister of Canada in 1984.

Thousands were killed in a devastating earthquake in Agadir, Morocco, in 1960.

Hattie McDaniel became the first black person to win an Oscar for her role in Gone with the Wind in 1940.

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