By Macaroni Kid Publishers: Kyrie Collins, Melissa Huca, & Becky Samford February 26, 2024

On February 29, we'll celebrate Leap Year with one extra day in 2020. Most adults know to expect a leap year every four years. But what is a leap year, anyway, and why do we do it? The answer is actually quite interesting!


Hipparchus of Nicaea, an ancient Greek astronomer and mathematician, was the first to calculate that a calendar year (the amount of time it takes Earth to make one complete orbit around the sun) was actually 365.246 days. If we ignored this fact, the calendar would shift by approximately 6 hours each year. After 100 years, January 1st would effectively come at the time that January 25th comes now. After 1000 years, it would arrive in September! 

Another option would be to add a six-hour day to the end of each year. The problem with this is that sunrise would come closer to noon in the second year, around dinnertime in the third year, and near midnight in the fourth year before returning to its "regular" time.

Approximately a century after Hipparchus' discovery, Julius Caesar came up with a solution. In 45 BC, Caesar rounded the year up to 365.25 days and established the Julian calendar, which added a Leap Day every fourth year. However, science needs to be precise. Since he rounded up, the Julian calendar was essentially losing days. To make up for it, the entire world (at least those still using the Julian calendar) completely skipped 10 days in 1582 and the calendar jumped from October 4th to October 15th!

So in that year, we began using the Gregorian calendar, which skips three leap years every 400 years. So the year 1600 was a leap year, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. The year 2000 was a leap year, but 2100, 2200, and 2300 won't be. Confused? It gets worse!

The Earth's rotation is slowing down ever so slightly. We lose a second about every 500 days. Since the 1970s, leap seconds have been added from time to time to our clocks. This is important because GPS satellites and other systems are designed to match the Earth's rotation.


  • Astrologers believe that anyone being born on February 29th has unusual talents and personalities befitting of their special birth day. People born on leap year’s day are called leaplings.
  • The tradition of women proposing to men on leap year day dates all the way back to 5th century Ireland. According to Irish legend, St. Brigid convinced St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men every four years. (Actually, I think it's a great idea anytime you're in love ... Leap Day not required!)
  • There are about 4 million people in the world who have been born on February 29th. The chances of having a leap year birthday are 1 in 1,461.
  • Leap year babies born in the year 1884 did not celebrate a single birthday on their actual birth date throughout entire teen age years. February 29th fell on the year they turned 12 and then not again until they turned 20.
  • Anthony, Texas is the self proclaimed leap year capital of the world. Every year this little town that sits on the border of New Mexico holds a festival and leap year birthday celebrations complete with a carnival and hot air balloon rides. People come from all over the world to celebrate their special birthday in style.


Although this is not an official holiday, it doesn't come around every day. So it seems like a great reason to celebrate with some leaping and jumping  games, activities and treats.  Make Leap Year something to look forward to every four years!

  • Frogs are unofficially the Leap Day mascot. Have a party and go crazy with frog themed decorations. We love these frog plates and  frog eye headbands!  And these flying slingshot frogs look like tons of fun! 
  • Find out if any of your friends are Leap Year babies and make it a birthday party!
  • Have a dance party using only songs with "Leap," "Jump," "Day," or "Time" in the title. Start with "Jump, Jive, and Wail" by Brian Setzer Orchestra, "Look Before You Leap" by Suicide Machines, "Jump Around" by House of Pain, "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper, and "One Day" by O.A.R.
  • Check out our Leap Year Pinterest Page for some "frog food" like these super cute frog sandwiches with  frog cookies  or cupcakes for dessert.
  • Then wash it all down with some "Pond Punch"  using 2 liters of ginger ale, 1 container of frozen lemonade, 1 large can of pineapple juice, and 1 quart of lime sherbet.  Yum!

  • Have everyone in the family write letters to themselves. Open them on Leap Day 2024.
  • Learn about frogs!
  • Create an origami jumping froggo on a frog hunt or play leapfrog! 
  • Print pictures of things that leap — like rabbits, jumping beans, and children — and make a collage.
  • Watch the movie Leap Year, starring Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott, and John Lithgow.
  • Enjoy a leap-day! Spend 24 hours sleeping, reading, watching movies, or hanging out with your friends. You can completely ditch your to-do list and still accomplish as much as you did last year.


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