10 Timely Facts About Leap Years

IRINA KROLEVETC/iStock via Getty Images
IRINA KROLEVETC/iStock via Getty Images

Quick question: What are the chances a given person will be born on February 29, a.k.a. a leap day or leap year day? Depending on who you ask (and what century it is), the odds are either one in 1461 or one in 1506. In short, the answer is complicated—just like a lot of other things about this curious calendar date.

1. Julius Caesar understood the need for leap years.

Statue of Julius Caesar in Rome, Italy
LorenzoPatoia/iStock via Getty Images

Established in the year 46 BCE, the so-named Julian calendar was devised by Julius Caesar and the Greek astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria. By this point in history, the traditional Roman calendar had fallen out of sync with the seasons. So at Caesar’s request, Sosigenes reformed it. One of his major changes was the implementation of leap years: Every fourth year, February would receive an extra day. This was meant to keep the new calendar in alignment with the Earth’s position relative to the Sun. Unfortunately, the whole system fell prey to a miscalculation and ended up including too many leap years.

2. The Julian Calendar didn’t exactly fix the leap year problem.

Like many of his contemporaries, Sosigenes believed that each solar year (the amount of time between successive vernal equinoxes) lasted for 365.25 days. Yet this isn’t quite right; as we now know, they last for approximately 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds (ie: 365.24219 days) apiece. Over time, the discrepancy spelled trouble. By 1577, the Julian calendar had fallen 10 days out of alignment, meaning important Christian holidays weren't being celebrated on the proper dates. This prompted Pope Gregory XIII to take action. A commission was established to modify the old calendar and upgrade the leap year system. Thus, the new and improved Gregorian calendar was born. It was first implemented in 1582, and we’re still using it today.

3. Sometimes, we skip leap years.

Under Gregorian calendar rules, certain leap years get skipped. "Century years” like 1700, 1800, and 1900 did not receive leap days, lasting for just the standard 365 days. However, if a given century year is divisible by four, it still gets a leap day, and is thus a bona fide leap year. That’s why 2000 CE was considered a leap year, but the year 2100 CE won’t be.

4. There’s a centuries-old tradition of women proposing to men on leap days.

Comical vintage postcard shows women preparing elaborate traps for men in 1908 leap year

not specified, Wikimedia Commons//public domain

How this whole trend got started is pretty murky. Saint Patrick was rumored to be an early proponent, and there’s a contentious claim that in 1288 Queen Margaret of Scotland—who was only five at the time—legalized a fine for men who turned down a woman’s leap day marriage proposal. Regardless, the custom has a long history in places such as Ireland, where leap day is also called Bachelor’s Day.

5. There's an Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies for people born on February 29.

“Membership in the society is free, but is restricted to people born on Leap Year Day,” explains the group’s official website. Launched in 1997, the HSLYDB now boasts more than 11,000 members from all over the world. For many of them, a shared pet peeve is websites that consider February 29 an invalid birth date. The HSLYDB has successfully taken Microsoft and YouTube to task over this very issue. It’s also been fighting to get "leap year day" capitalized in dictionaries and acknowledged on calendars. (That fight is still a work in progress.)

6. February 29 has a connection to the Salem Witch Trials.

February 29, 1692, was a dark day in colonial Massachusetts. That’s when the first arrest warrants were issued for what became known as the Salem Witch Trials. By the end of these paranoia-induced hearings and prosecutions, 20 people were executed.

7. Toys “R” Us once came under fire for ignoring leap year kids.

Toys "R" Us invited kids to sign up for personalized birthday cards from store mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe. Sounds cute, right? Well there was a time when leap day babies were left out of the fun due to a programming issue. “How do you explain to a five-year-old that they won’t receive a birthday card from Geoffrey over at Toys "R" Us this year, because the Toys "R" Us computer has no way to recognize their birthday?” asked HSLYDB co-founder Raenell Dawn in 2008. The problem was promptly fixed.

8. Rapper Ja Rule is a leap day Baby.

Rapper Ja Rule attends the after party for the finale of the "JENNIFER LOPEZ: ALL I HAVE" residency at MR CHOW at Caesars Palace on September 30, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Rapper Ja Rule attends at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Variously called leapers, leaplings, twenty-niners, and leap day babies (LDBs), people who came into the world on February 29 are in good company. In addition to Ja Rule, these folks share their birthday with baseball great Pepper Martin and former Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai.

9. A community on the Texas-New Mexico border calls itself the “Leap Year Capital Of The World.”

Anthony, Texas and Anthony, New Mexico bookend the dividing line between their respective states. In 1988, local leapers Mary Ann Brown and Birdie Lewis proposed the greater Anthony area should throw a Worldwide Leap Year Festival on their shared birthday—and did so for several more leap years. The parties featured parades, tours, southwestern dancing, and of course, birthday cake. Past shindigs have attracted LDBs from across the globe—along with thousands of other guests. According to the event's website, they're still looking for a 2020 sponsor, so no details have been confirmed.

10. Movie history was made on February 29, 1940.

At the 1940 Academy Awards, Hattie McDaniel’s performance as Mammy in Gone with the Wind earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She was the first African American to win this particular accolade.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture


This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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The Worst Drivers In America Live in These 15 States

Life of Pix, Pexels
Life of Pix, Pexels

No matter how many times you've been cut off on a road trip, anecdotal evidence alone can't prove that a certain state's drivers are worse than yours. For that, you need statistics. The personal finance company SmartAsset compiled data related to bad driving behaviors to create this list of the 15 states in America with the worst drivers.

This ranking is based on four metrics: the number of fatalities per 100 million miles driven in each state, DUI arrests per 1000 drivers, the percentage of uninsured drivers, and how often residents Google the terms “speeding ticket” or “traffic ticket.”

Mississippi ranks worst overall, with the second-highest number of fatalities and the second lowest percentage of insured drivers. This marked the third year in a row Mississippi claimed the bottom slot in SmartAsset's worst driver's list. This year, it's followed by Nevada in second place and Tennessee in third. You can check out the worst offenders in the country in the list below.

Some motorists may be more interested in avoiding the cities plagued by bad driving than the states. These two categories don't always align: Oregon, which didn't crack the top 10 states with the worst drivers, is home to Portland, the city with the worst drivers according to one quote comparison site. After reading through the list of states, compare it to the cities with the worst drivers in America here.

  1. Mississippi
  1. Nevada
  1. Tennessee
  1. Florida
  1. California
  1. Arizona
  1. South Carolina (Tie)
  1. Texas (Tie)
  1. New Mexico
  1. Alaska
  1. Louisiana
  1. Alabama
  1. Oregon
  1. Arkansas
  1. Colorado