Are you ready to Leap?

Image by Mike Dibos from Pixabay.


by Michelle Cassell
Managing Editor

Yes, 2024 is a Leap Year!  So, what is a Leap Year, and why do we have it?  The period of time required for the earth to rotate around the sun is equal to 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, or 365.2422 days.  This accounts for the seasons.  If we did not adjust for that pesky .2422 days, our seasons would begin to shift in the calendar over time.  For example, it would be scorching hot in December.  (And no, that is not why we haven’t had any snow this winter.)

So, to correct this, we add 1 day every four years (leap year). Thus, three calendar years are 365 days long; the fourth calendar year is 366 days long.

Julius Caesar rendering courtesy of Pixabay.

According to NASA, Julius Caesar set up A calendar system in the Roman Empire around 46 BC.  But this so-called Julian calendar is still not correct.  Between 46 BC and 1582 AD, this calendar accumulated an error of 12.7 days.  In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar by specifying that all years divisible by 4 are to be leap years except for century years, which must be divisible by 400 to be leap years. (Are you still with me here?)

The Gregorian calendar calculations allow for only one day every 3,333.3 years.  Again according to NASA:  “The Gregorian calendar came into use in Roman Catholic countries in October 1582 when the seasons were brought back into step by eliminating 10 days from the calendar then in use. Thursday, October 4, was followed by Friday, October 15 (which caused some consternation among the populace, especially those with birthdays on the eliminated dates!)”

Photo of dog jumping courtesy of Pixabay.

Jumping ahead to modern times, what happens if someone happens to be born on a Leap Day?  First, let’s identify some of the more famous people who were born on a Leap Day.  Looking across the web, we can find many of them, including Tony Robbins, Denis Farina, Pope Paul III, Jessie Usher, and Superman, to name a few.

At this point, you may wonder what happens legally if you are born on a Leap Day.  John Reitz, a law professor at the University of Iowa, has addressed that very question.  “I don’t know of any statute or general rule that has anything to do with a leap day,” said Reitz, an absence that suggests the issue has never caused any problems significant enough to require attention from legislators or other elected bodies.”  But Reitz speculates that March 1 would likely be considered the legal birthday of someone born on leap day in non-leap years. His legal thinking is that February 29 is the day after February 28, so a person born on February 29 is legally considered to have aged one year on the day after February 28. In non-leap years, that day is March 1.

So, for someone born on February 29, the first day they can legally drive, vote, join the Army, buy alcohol or start collecting Social Security is presumably March 1 in non-leap years.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Happy Birthday, Leap Year Babies! Think about it when you grow up…

Michelle Cassell is a seasoned reporter who has covered everything from crime to hurricanes and local politics to human interest over the course of 35 years. As managing editor, she hopes to encourage writers of a wide range of backgrounds and interests in TLR’s coverage of Southern Orange County news.

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