The Rarity of a Leap Year Birthday and Its History
If you’re born on Feb. 29, like Ramiro’s good friend Debbie, that means you’re a leap year baby! Whether they celebrate their birthday on Feb. 28 or March 1 for the rest of the years, leap year babies should consider themselves part of something special. The mere chances of being a “leapling” are 1 in 1,461. It’s more likely a person will be born with 11 fingers and toes (1 in 500) than be born on leap year! So, where did leap year come from anyway?
Too Many Spare Days
Ever since ancient Egypt, we’ve known that our calendars don’t always line up properly with the duration of the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. In early calendars, the days in a year were somewhere around 354, causing the calendar and seasons to get out of sync from lagging 11 days behind.
When Julius Caesar became emperor of Rome, the calendar was at least three months behind the actual seasons. To solve this issue, he installed a 445-day-long Year of Confusion (46 B.C.) to correct the errors in one swoop, then implemented 365.25 day-years that added a leap day every fourth year.
The solution wasn’t perfect; the new year was still 11 minutes shorter than the full rotation. Every 128 years, the calendar would be off by a full day. Pope Gregory XIII mandated a solution with the Gregorian calendar: leap years divisible by 100, like 1900, would be skipped unless also divisible by 400. While it still isn’t a perfect system, it’ll help our calendars stay in sync for the next 3,300 years.
Even if the list is slimmer for Feb. 29 than other celebrity birthdays, there are several prominent celebrities that are also leaplings such as: rapper Ja Rule, Antonio Sabàto Jr., “Law & Order” actor Peter Scanavino, “The Godfather” actor Alex Rocco, Foster the People musician Mark Foster, and — although not real — Superman!
We hope you have a happy February with the leap year babies in your life. This year is one of the few everyone can celebrate their real, genuine birthday!