The 29th of February is a special day, since it only comes round once every four years. If it happens to be your birthday, you never get very old, and it makes you a little bit special too! My Aunt Ruth and her twin brother were born on February 29th, so although they are both grandparents now, they have only just turned eighteen!
The reason why we have one extra day every four years is very interesting. As you know, every day is divided up into 24 hours. That is how long it takes the earth to spin around once on its axis. (It’s funny how it can be spinning at quite a speed and yet we don’t feel a thing!) But that is not all it’s doing…
At the same time, the earth is travelling in a big circle (called its orbit) around the sun. To get all the way around takes exactly 365 and 1/4 days. We call that a year. But because you can’t have a quarter of a day at the end of each year, we have to save those quarters up until they make a whole day (every fourth year). Because poor little February only gets 28 days most years, it seems only right that it should get the extra day!
As you may have noticed, if your birthday falls on a Saturday one year, it will be on a Sunday the next, moving forward by a day each year. But every fourth year when that extra day is added, your birthday will leap over a day and be on the next day instead.
That is why this special year with the extra day is called a Leap Year. The 29th of February is Leap Year Day, and people born on that day are called “leaplings.” It must be especially exciting for them when their birthday comes around after such a long wait!
But even if it’s not your birthday, this extra day in February is something we can all enjoy. It’s like a little bonus day you get for nothing. I think it calls for a treat of some sort! Perhaps you can enjoy a delicious Leap Cake?
Maybe the best thing to do on February 29th is to visit an ice cream parlour for a Leap Cone! What flavour would you choose?
Some people are keen to see Leap Year Day become a public holiday. They want to celebrate the beauty of nature and the universe, and draw our attention to the amazing scientific discoveries that have helped us understand how the world works.
I must admit I find it pretty incredible that scientists like Copernicus and Galileo used only telescopes and mathematical calculations to work out how our earth and the other planets orbit around the sun.
Whatever you decide to do with your extra Leap Year Day, I hope you enjoy it!