Happy Leap Day, everybody! Here, to help you celebrate, some fun truths about Feb. 29, plus tips to make the most of the additional hours.
Every four years, the universe (okay, the Gregorian timetable) gives us an additional day toward the finish of February — a day to truly realign the planets and, in some cases, our lives. Technically, it takes the Earth 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to circle the sun, which means that our typical 365-day year is slightly out of sync with the solar year. Leap Day (a.k.a. Feb. 29) was made to help right that wrong.
It’s not a bad idea, really — setting aside one day to fix a mistake or compensate for a particular shortcoming. In fact, we might all do well to apply it to our own lives.
Why not use today to do something you’ve been putting off or to realign your priorities for the rest of the year? Make that doctor’s appointment you’ve been avoiding, file your taxes early, or commit once and for all to quitting smoking. Pick up that book you bought four months ago and never got around to reading, or call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a cue from last week’s episode of 30 Rock and do something you wouldn’t otherwise do on a regular, run-of-the-mill Wednesday. Try a new food, visit another neighborhood — step out of your comfort zone and let the Leap Day spirit move you!
To give you a little motivation, here are four interesting truths to think about this rare, magical day:
1. Leap Day birthday girls and boys are called Leaplings or Leapers.
According to the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, a free participation club for individuals born on Feb. 29, the chances of having a Leap Day birthday are one in 1,461 (365 days times four years, plus one additional day). The odds of being born on some other day are one in 365. During non-Leap Years, most Leapers celebrate their birthdays on either Feb. 28 or March 1, which is technically when they would have been born in a normal calendar year. (Many Leapers also use those dates on official documents: While birth certificates and Social Security accept Feb. 29 as a birthday, some other agencies or companies do not.) Famous Leaplings include Ja Rule and Antonio Sabato Jr.
2. Men and women switch romantic parts on Leap Day.
This ages-old thought was the motivation for a 2010 romantic comedy starring Oscar-winner Amy Adams. According to Irish legend, St. Bridget negotiated with St. Patrick to flip the tables on tradition each four years and “allow” ladies to propose to men, thus striking fear into the hearts of commitment-phobic boyfriends everywhere. Guys may want to think twice about running the other way, though: Research shows that married men have better and more frequent sex, are less likely to die of cancer or heart disease, and live generally longer, healthier lives than their bachelor buddies. Still not convinced? Consider this: In some countries, any agent who rejects a lady’s proposal has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves (to hide her ringless finger, of course).
3. Leap Day is also International Rare Disease Day.
Technically, this day is celebrated every year on the last day of February, but it was started on Feb. 29, 2008, because of Feb. 29 is a “rare” day, and 2008 was the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Orphan Drug Act, a U.S. law designed to facilitate the development of drugs for rare (a.k.a. “orphan”) diseases. This year, fundraising and awareness activities are taking place in Europe, Russia, China, Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, among other countries.
4. Leap Day may be lucky or unlucky, depending on whom you ask.
In Scotland, it’s considered bad luck to be conceived on Leap Day, and in Greece, there’s a similar superstition that couples who marry during a Leap Year will end up getting divorced. But in other cultures, proposing on Leap Day is considered good luck.