Happy Leap Day!

February 28, 2020

By Zadra Rose Ibañez, Director of Operations

My cousin’s birthday is February 28.  I often think that, had she been born one day later, she would be a quarter of her age.  Of course, she wouldn’t really only be ¼ of her years, but would only have had a ¼ of her birthdays.  In doing a bit of research on the subject (thank you, Wiki) it appears there are actually rules about this.  Birthdays of people who are born on February 29th are recognized on February 28th in non-leap years for purposes of reaching majority.

But this got me to thinking, what other connections could be made about Leap Day / Leap Year?

First, we need to figure out when leap years happen. Leap day, or February 29th, falls in any year that is divisible by four, EXCEPT for years that are divisible by 100.  (But a year divisible by 400 still contains a leap day and is a leap year.)

So, 1900 is not a leap year, but 2000 was.  Leap years occur in years ending in the following cycle: 0,4,8,2,6.  (e.g. 2020, 2024 2028, 2032, 2036, 2040).

This convoluted system was created in an effort to keep seasons where they are on the calendar, because an actual solar year is 6 hours longer than 365 days. Without the adjustment of a leap day, seasons would eventually shift to occur in different months.

Fun facts:

  • I graduated in a leap year, so most of my graduating class turned 18 in a leap year.
  • Presidential Elections happen in a leap year.
  • In “the old days,” the Olympics always fell on a leap year. The Summer and Winter Olympics used to be held in the same year every four years until 1992.  While the Summer Olympics are still held in a leap year, the Winter Olympics were moved to be two years after the Summer Olympics and are held every four years since 1994.
  • Whatever configuration of days February falls, March and November are the same – except in leap year. So, if February 1 falls on Monday, then so does March 1 and November 1, but in leap years this goes out the window.
  • Whatever day of the week a certain date fell on last year, this year will always be the day after – unless last year was a leap year. So, March 1 fell on Wednesday in 2017,  Thursday in 2018, Friday in 2019… but this year it’s on Sunday, so that rule isn’t really helpful.
  • There are many “famous birthdays, deaths and historic events” that happened on February 29th, but being a hockey fan, this is my favorite: in 1980, Gordie Howe of the then Hartford Whalers made NHL history when he scored his 800th goal.

One last tidbit:  because Chinese New Years cycle through every 12 years, the year of the Rat is always in a leap year. (Unless the year is divisible by 100 but not 400, as per the rules above.)  The year of the Dragon and Monkey also occur only in leap years.  Or another way to think about it; leap years only occur in the year of the Dragon, Monkey, or Rat.

And, because I love numbers and spreadsheets, here is a chart, just for you!

Year Ending in: Zodiac:
0 Dragon 1900* 1960 2020 2080 2140
4 Monkey 1904 1964 2024 2084 2144
8 Rat 1908 1968 2028 2088 2148
2 Dragon 1912 1972 2032 2092 2152
6 Monkey 1916 1976 2036 2096 2156
0 Rat 1920 1980 2040 2100* 2160
4 Dragon 1924 1984 2044 2104 2164
8 Monkey 1928 1988 2048 2108 2168
2 Rat 1932 1992 2052 2112 2172
6 Dragon 1936 1996 2056 2116 2176
0 Monkey 1940 2000* 2060 2120 2180
4 Rat 1944 2004 2064 2124 2184
8 Dragon 1948 2008 2068 2128 2188
2 Monkey 1952 2012 2072 2132 2192
6 Rat 1956 2016 2076 2136 2196
* Not a leap year
* Divisible by 400, still a leap year.

Happy Leap Day!

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