Leap Year and Leap Day - February 29

2008 is a leap year, which means that it has 366 days instead of the usual 365 days that an ordinary year has. That extra day is added to the calendar in order to synchronize it with the seasons. In this video clip learn exactly what leap year and some fun facts about it.

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Leap Years and Leap Days

Today is the rarest day in our calendar: February 29th is a day that occurs only once every four years. That means this year has an extra day, making it a leap year.

A Leap Year is when the calendar year is extended to have 366 days - adding February 29th to the year. Leap years are added to the calendar to keep it working properly. The 365 days of the annual calendar are meant to match up with the solar year. A solar year is the time it takes the Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun-about one year. But the actual time it takes for the Earth to travel around the Sun is in fact a little longer than 365 days. It is about 365¼ days (365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, to be precise). So the calendar and the solar year don't completely match-the calendar year is a touch shorter than the solar year.

It may not seem like much of a difference, but after a few years those extra quarter days in the solar year begin to add up. After four years, for example, the four extra quarter days would make the calendar fall behind the solar year by about a day. Over the course of a century, the difference between the solar year and the calendar year would become 25 days! Instead of summer beginning in June, for example, it wouldn't start until nearly a month later, in July. So every four years a leap day is added to the calendar to allow it to catch up to the solar year.

There are a couple of strange traditions pertaining to leap years. For example, supposedly dating back to 5th century Ireland, women may make marriage proposals only in leap years, and in some cases only on February 29th. In Greece, it is believed that getting married in a leap year is bad luck.

Anthony, New Mexico is the self-proclaimed leap-year capital of the world. Every four years since 1988, residents throw a birthday party for people born on February 29th.

A person born on February 29th may be called a "leapling." In non-leap years, these people often celebrate their birthdays on either the last day of February or the first day of March.

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