Leap Year and its Significance

The year 2016 is a leap year, which means we have an extra day in February.

In the Gregorian calendar, each leap year has 366 days instead of the usual 365, by extending February to 29 days rather than the more common 28.

According to Wikipedia, a leap year is a year containing one additional day added to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year.

Because seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in a whole number of days, calendars that have the same number of days in each year drift over time with respect to the event that the year is supposed to track.

By inserting an additional day or month into the year, the drift can be corrected.

Why is a leap day added?

Earth takes about a tropical year i.e. 365.242189 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds – to go around the Sun. Not having an extra day on February 29 nearly every four years would result in a loss of almost six hours every year.

This means our calendar would be off by about 24 days after only 100 years and leap day keeps the calendar in alignment with the Earth's revolutions around the Sun.

Here’s an algorithm from the Microsoft website that tells you how to find if a year is a leap year:

1.     If the year is evenly divisible by 4, go to step 2. Else, go to step 5.
2.     If the year is evenly divisible by 100, go to step 3. Else, go to step 4.
3.     If the year is evenly divisible by 400, go to step 4. Else, go to step 5.
4.     The year is a leap year (it has 366 days).
5.     The year is not a leap year (it has 365 days)

Some facts associated with leap year:

      Julius Caesar introduced the leap year in 45 BC, but there was no February 29. Instead, February 24 was repeated.
      The frog is a symbol associated with February 29.
      "Leaplings" or "Leapers" is what the people born on February 29 are called.
      February 29 also marks Rare Disease Day.
      People working on a fixed annual wage work for free on this day.
      Your chance of being born on February 29 is one in 1461.

Leap year being an unusual occurrence has spawned its own genre of humour and satire. Here are some to tickle your funny bone:

      “My 84-year-old friend is celebrating his 21st birthday today. He has finally reached legally marriageable age!”     
      “I envy your only having to put up with incessant Facebook wishes every 4 years.”
      And finally, “Leap year? You study 24x7x366 days now.”