1. 366 v. 365
Leave it to the ancient Egyptians to notice that the solar year and the man-made calendar didn't sync up. Why? Because it actually takes Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to orbit once around the sun. Those extra minutes and seconds add up, and an extra day had to be added here and there throughout the centuries. Julius Caesar introduced leap years circa 45 B.C. and designated February 29th as Leap Day. A more precise formula (one we still use) was adopted in the 16th century when the Gregorian calendar fine-tuned the calculations to include a leap day in years only divisible by four - 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024, etc.
2. No Time to Waste
We owe our ancient forbears some thanks. We moderns would lose almost 6 hours from the calendar every year if we didn't add February 29 every four years. If 100 years went by without a leap day, our calendar would be off by 24 days. Who can lose that kind of time?
3. Women Pop the Question
Legend has it that in 5th century Ireland, St. Bridget badgered St. Patrick into allowing women to propose to men – instead of the usual way around – every 4 years on Leap Day (also called called “Bachelors Day"). The tradition continued in Scotland in 1288, when Queen Margaret declared that women had the right to pop the question to any single man they fancied. If the gentleman refused, he was expected to pay a penalty, such as a silk gown, money, or 12 pairs of gloves, presumably to hide the embarrassment of not having that rock on her finger. Our America version, “Sadie Hawkins Day,” comes from the Al Capp cartoon strip "Li'L Abner" with Sadie and the gals chasing bachelors around Dogpatch.
People born on Feb. 29, called “leaplings” have to wait four years to "officially" observe their birthdays, and celebrate on either February 28 or March 1 in typical years. In most states, leaplings have to wait until March 1 for legal recognition for age-specific milestones (16, 18, 21). Famous leaplings include bandleader Jimmy Dorsey, singer Dinah Shore, Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini, model and actor Anthonio Sabato, Jr., and rapper Ja Rule.
5. Oh Baby, Baby, Baby
According to the Guinness Book of Records, Norway's Henriksen family holds the record for number of children (three) born on Feb. 29 – Heidi (b. 1960), Olav (b. 1964) and Lief-Martin (b. 1968). Gratulerer med dagen!