(WVNS) — You may have heard the school riddle to help remember which month has how many days. “Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November, all the rest have thirty-one. February has twenty-eight, but leap year coming one in four, February then has one day more.”
But why? Why all the extra, or not so extra, focus on February? Already the odd month out with the least amount of days, but once a year it gets one more?!
It begins with our planet and it’s orbital relationship with our sun. We humans like to categorize all sorts of things in neat, easy to understand packages that flow together. A year being 365 days just seems right, right? Even if it is wrong, it is better than the alternative.
Our planet actually takes 365.24 days to traverse its orbit around the sun. Seems a bit complicated to have a 5 hour and 47 minute day once every year so we just decided to ignore the quarter day. Works out great, right? No messy fractions, no remembering, easy whole numbers.
Not really as it turns out. After a few decades, that quarter day being ignored could have huge problems for a society bound by time, calendars, routines, growing seasons, and so forth. Imagine Christmas in the middle of spring or the Halloween pumpkin harvest happening in January one year and July a few decades later. It just doesn’t work.
So, Leap Year was born. Once every 4 years, we collect the quarter day we’ve ignored and combine them to add an arbitrary day to our calendars, February 29th, or Leap Day. It “leaps” us back to where we should be. It’s a very important day to keep our calendars in line with our orbit, holidays in the same seasons, growing seasons running smoothly year to year.
Now that we have the reason and math worked out, everything is running smooth, right? Well…for 99.9% of the worlds population it has but what about those born on this extra, arbitrary day at the end of February? Affecting about 0.1% of the world population, a fun and quirky craziness happens.
“Leapers” or “Leaplings”, are people born on February 29th, the extra, arbitrary day that only comes around once every 4 years. While some folks turn 29 a few times in their lives, leaplings actually do have different ages. How many times they’ve orbited the sun and how many times they’ve had an actual birthday on February 29th. StormTracker 59 Meteorologist Bradley Wells is a ‘Leapling’ turning 9 and 3/4 in 2023,(which may explain a few things). He just won’t be celebrating on February 29th since it doesn’t exist this year.
‘Leaplings’ will celebrate differently but most celebrate their non-birthdays on February 28th, a day early, to stay within the same month, but legally, their birthday is March 1st of non Leap Day Years. Technically, Leap Day babies have 3 birthday depending on the year. February 28th, 29th, or March 1st and for Bradley he simply takes all 3.
The odds of being born on Leap Year are surprisingly not that bad. Better than the MegaMillions, anyway. In any given year, the odds of being born on any given day is 1 in 365. For Leap Year, since it only happens once every 4 years, the odds are 1 in 1,461 or 365 x 4. 365 being the days in a year and 4 on how many years you have to wait for that 1 day to come back around. Making being born on Leap Year like winning a small lottery on day one. Pretty special if you ask me…the Leap Day Baby writing this.
Of course, only a select few Leap Day Babies will ever reach the age to drive, gamble, vote, or drink and none of us will ever see the retirement age of 65 but there is satisfaction in knowing we’ll be forever young. And turning 10 years old twice is a great excuse for a 40 year old to really, act their age…again.
At least modern day Leap Day Babies actually get a birthday, even if they have to wait 3 years in-between for the next one. Thanks to a mistake in the 1700’s, Sweden missed a Leap Day due to a conversion from Julian to Gregorian calendars. The missed day caused Sweden to be off from the rest of the world so in 1712, they added another extra day to catch up. This created the only known, actual use of February 30th. Someone born on this day in 1712 lived their whole life never having a birthday. Oops.
As for Leap Day babies this year, here’s looking forward to 2024! Happy Non-Birthday, Birthday Leaplings!