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11 Random Facts About Leap Day
written by Sam Greenspan

I am preternaturally drawn to Leap Day. Can't really explain why. Maybe it's my love of things that are just ever so slightly "off" -- like pre-drilled screw holes from IKEA or error baseball cards or karaoke renditions of Alicia Keys.

This is actually the first time 11 Points has been around for a Leap Day -- I launched the site in June 2008, so we missed it. And I wasn't going to delay gratification and hold off until 2016 to write a list about February 29th. That's like tantric-level Leap Day patience.

So here are 11 random facts and bits of nonsense about Leap Day, aka February 29th, aka tomorrow, aka Ja Rule's birthday. Leap Day's not always there when you call, but it's always on time. So let's start livin' it up.

  1. A surprising number of photos of frogs having sex come up when you search for Leap Day. Euphemism?
    You've got a 1-in-1461 chance of being born on a leap day. Well, not you specifically. You were born on a different day. The royal you. (Also, about four million people worldwide have a February 29th birthday. Which makes me wonder...)

  2. When do people with leap day birthdays celebrate it on non-leap years? The general response is, "February 28th, March 1st, whatever they want." And that's the general response because we live in the everyone-gets-a-trophy age of social hive-mindedness where everything everyone says is always right and important. Not on my watch. I want real answers. And who better to give us answers than the government, right?

    Turns out February 29th birthdays are handled differently everywhere. In most U.S. states and places like the U.K. and Hong Kong, people with 2/29 birthdays don't hit legal milestones (drinking age, smoking age, rental car age, topless strip club with alcohol age, bottomless strip club without alcohol age) until March 1st. In places including China, Taiwan and New Zealand, February 28th is the legal birthday. So check with your local elected officials (or, I guess in some of the above cases, communists) to find out.


  3. Well Mr. Burns had done it.
    The formula for calculating which years do and don't have Leap Days is more complicated than you might realize. So one out of every four years is a Leap Year. That's true. Mostly. Now we get into the caveats that resemble Mr. Burns describing his baseball signals.

    There's a Leap Day added every four years unless the year is perfectly divisible by 100, in which case there's no Leap Day. Unless the year is also perfectly divisible by 400, in which case the previous rule is nullified and there is a Leap Day. So 2000 had a February 29th because it was perfectly divisible by 400, while 2100 won't have one because it's only perfectly divisible by 100. Of course, that could all be thrown off if I tap my belt not once, not twice, but thrice.

  4. Most of us won't ever see a Leap Day skipped in our lifetimes. The last time a Leap Day was skipped was in February of 1900. The next time will be in February of 2100. So unless modern medicine is keeping us all alive and miserable well into our early 100s, most of the people reading this list will always get a Leap Day every four years.

    On that note, I checked it out, and there are actually only 30 people alive right now who experienced the skipped Leap Day in 1900. And the odds are none of them remembers -- they would've been between a few weeks and three years old at the time. Meaning they were working in coal mines, not focused on zany calendar anomalies.

  5. Because of the Leap Day, you may have to work on New Year's Eve this year. Leap Years are the only years where January 1st and December 31st are on different days of the week -- every other year they're on the same day.

    That means December 31st will be on a Monday, not a Sunday. Which means you may have to go in to work that day, then leave so you can go out for a night that will be even more disappointing than the average New Year's.


  6. Why WOULDN'T you release a movie called Leap Year in January of a non-Leap Year?
    February 29th is the one day where women are traditionally expected to propose to men. And not just in Amy Adams movies. This actually is an Old Country (who knows which Old Country) tradition. And if the man turns you down, he's supposed to give you cash or clothing. Seems like a fair tradeoff for an eternity of humiliation, shattered self-esteem, and futile attempts to find someone who wants to buy a second-hand, unlucky engagement ring sized for a giant man-sized finger.

  7. Leap Day doesn't hold up in court. People have tried all sorts of Leap Day tricks in court... and, apparently, they lose pretty much every time. Prisoners who have one-year sentences have to serve the extra day if their year crosses Leap Day. A woman tried claiming she was entitled to her husband's Social Security benefits because even though it looked like they got divorced just days before their 10th anniversary, counting their Leap Days as extra would push them over 10 years. A guy who had a certain number of days to file papers claimed February 29th shouldn't count as a day against him. In all cases, these moves failed.

  8. Sweden once celebrated February 30th, too. In 1700, Sweden was planning to switch its calendar to the modern Gregorian calendar from the older Julian calendar... and they'd do it by eliminating Leap Days for 40 years. But then they got into the Great Northern War and forgot the plan. Eventually their times were so screwed up that they needed to add a February 30th to get back to normal. I can only imagine how much that cut into their Smarch.


  9. James Milne Wilson, timely at dying.
    There's a former world leader who was born on a Leap Day and died on a Leap Day. There's only one famous person who was born on a Leap Day and died on a Leap Day. And I use the term "famous" as loosely as a VH1 reality show. Sir James Milne Wilson, the eighth premier of Tasmania, was born on February 29th, 1812 and died on February 29th, 1880 -- his "17th" birthday. If it weren't for that, you'd probably only know him for work on growing free trade amongst the Australian colonies.

  10. The Hindu and Hebrew calendars add a full Leap Month. They both use lunar-solar mixes, which makes everything crazy -- so to keep holidays consistent with their traditional seasons, they have to sprinkle in Leap Months every three-ish years. That's a massive correction, versus Leap Day which is a minor one. In iPhone terms, the Hebrew and Hindu leaps are like when you type in "nfjfnfnagt" and it autocorrects to "McKinney"... the Gregorian leaps are like when you type in "Yo" and it autocorrects to "To".

  11. The Leap Day traditions presented in 30 Rock this year could become realities. 30 Rock has pretty much fallen off a cliff but its recent Leap Day episode was perfect. So feel free to poke someone in the eye if they're not wearing blue and yellow on February 29th... dress up at Leap Day William... and trade candy for children's tears.

    This could become a real Leap Day tradition. I mean, Festivus has pretty much become a real thing because of Seinfeld. Every year I listen to the Pennsylvania Polka and say "It's cold out there today / it's cold out there every day" on February 2nd because of Groundhog Day. And I gather dozens of my friends and make sure we're all brutally unfunny on both New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day. Movies and TV shows about holidays can really shape those holidays.

Check out 11 Things to Do This Leap Day on one of my new partner sites, Modern Primate!

This list was originally published on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Misc.
It currently has View Comments.

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