This past week, the rarest of events took place: February 29. This elusive day comes around only once every four years and turns out to have some pretty fascinating trivia associated with it. Check out our list of the most random Leap Day info.
People born on Leap Day have acquired a number of nicknames, from “leapers” to, adorably, “leaplings.” On non leap-year years (officially called common years), leaplings typically celebrate their birthdays on March 1st, though some take advantage of the oddity and celebrate both days. The fact that leaplings age every year but only have official birthdays every four years has been played for laughs, including in the Pirates of Penzance when Frederic the pirate apprentice discovers that he has to serve the pirates until his twenty-first birthday—not his twenty-first year—meaning extra decades of servitude.
According to many European traditions, women may only propose to men in leap years, or sometimes only on Leap Day. And the men that refuse these proposals have to “pay fines.” This dates from a rumored law, passed in 1288 by the then-5-year-old Queen Margaret, which said men must pay for refusals with a kiss or a silk gown. In Denmark, refusal must be compensated with 12 pairs of gloves. Meanwhile, Greek tradition says it’s unlucky to marry on a leap year—one in five Greek couples will avoid getting married during a leap year.
The Academy Awards usually happen near the end of February, so it’s unsurprising a few ceremonies have actually taken place on Leap Day. Highlights include 2004, when “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” won eleven Academy Awards, tying the all-time record held by “Titanic” and “Ben Hur.” Also, on the Leap Day of 1940, “Gone with the Wind” won eight awards. You don’t really need an excuse to watch these classic films, but we’re giving you one anyway.
Leap years currently coincide with both US presidential elections and the Summer Olympic Games. This year, the Summer Olympics will be held in London, and in the fall Barack Obama will be up for re-election. It’s not just your imagination—this is a big year for news.
Other Leap systems
While the Gregorian calendar uses a Leap Day to make up for the fact that earth takes slightly more than 365 days to orbit the sun fully, other systems do it differently. Both the Hindu and Buddhist calendars add an extra month every few years, while the Iranian calendar adds an extra day every four years, but every 33 years the leap years are five years apart. This system is more accurate than ours, but also a bit more confusing.