What is a Leap Year?

By now, we all know that every four years there’s an extra day added to the calendar. But why? Who invented it, and what’s it like to have a birthday on the 29th of February? All these questions will be answered so you can stop wondering what is a leap year.

Why do we have leap years?

Well, we’ve all learned in school that a year is 365 days long. In actuality, a full year is about 365.25 long. The extra 0.25 might not seem like much, but it does add up. One-fourth of a day is about 6 hours. Without the extra day that we add to our calendars, January would come in summer and June in winter. Our calendar would completely fall out of order.

Who created the leap year?

You’d be surprised to learn that the person who came up with this idea lived way before the invention of the modern calendar. In fact, in 46 BCE Julius Caesar instituted a new calendar that would be 365.25 days long.  But before he did that, he had instituted a calendar that was 445 days long. Since the rotation of the earth is around 365.25 days long, the seasons on the original roman calendar were all out of place. UH, scholar Richard Armstrong calls this the “longest year in history”. When Caesar made this calendar, it left many confused. To limit any further confusion, Julius created the new calendar (now called the Julian calendar) that adds an extra day to February every four years.

What’s it like to be born on the 29th of February?

Only 0.07% of people on Earth have a birthday on Feb. 29, so the chances of being born on this day are very slim. But there are a few people who can say they were born on this day. “Everyone that I’ve met that’s been born on a leap year seems special,” says Adam Piekarski, “I personally think they think differently and they see differently.”


Obviously, there can be many downsides to having a birthday every 4 years. Many leap year babies have problems that the rest of us may never go through. For example, filling out paperwork can be challenging because computers don’t always recognize Feb. 29 as a real birthday. This can make getting a driver’s license, buying health insurance, or getting into college a little harder than it needs to be.


Though there are a few negatives, having a leap day birthday isn’t completely bad. When the time of their actual birthday does come around, leap year babies are presented with many perks. For example, stores or food places will give them special discounts or some products for free!

Since their real birthdays only come once every 4 years, many like to celebrate by having a big blowout party on that day. Ashley Eden, who is a worker at Capitol Hill, had a limo sent out to pick her up from school on her 16th birthday. “They wanted to make sure I saw it as a cool and special thing, rather than a bummer that I had a birthday every four years,” she said.