Editorial: Surprise, 2020 is a Leap Year

Column By Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin

Did you know 2020 is a leap year? I didn’t. What’s the hullabaloo about an extra day every 4 years? I’m trying to get into the leap year spirit, but it’s difficult — not a lot to work with. Maybe I’ll sample 29 different flavors of cheesecake throughout 2020. 

Moving on. Happy birthday to leaplings. There are only about 5 million people in the whole world who were born on Feb. 29, with the odds of being born on Leap Day standing at about 1-in-1,461, according to www.history.com.

Leaplings only get to celebrate their birthdays once every four years, but they do get to be a member of an elite group. So let’s all eat cake and drink punch in honor of leaplings. 

Bring on the chips and dip. Bring on the salsa and tortillas. Bring on the tropical beverages. Invite family and friends to your leap year lallapaloosa. How do you celebrate a leap year? Any way you want to. 

What is a leap year? I’m glad you asked. A leap year is a year with an extra day—February 29—which is added nearly every four years to the calendar year. Because of this extra day, a leap year has 366 days instead of 365. And there’s your reason to plan a party.

Why are leap years necessary? “Adding an extra day every four years keeps our calendar aligned correctly with the astronomical seasons since a year according to the Gregorian calendar (365 days) and a year according to Earth’s orbit around the Sun (approximately 365.25 days) are not the exact same length of time. Without this extra day, our calendar and the seasons would gradually get out of sync,” according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. www.almanac.com.

Leap years are necessary because the actual length of a year is 365.242 days, not 365 days, as commonly stated. Well, there’s the reason in a nutshell. 

“Leap-year days serve a purpose, as we know: The extra day tacked onto the end of February every four years accounts for Earth’s spinning around the sun five hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds longer than 365 days. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar noticed the calendar had fallen behind 90 days and tried to correct the difference, and added days here and there to months on the calendar for one year, adding a leap day every four years thereafter. This still needed tweaking: By 1582, with 11 minutes a year left unadjusted, the calendar had shifted 10 days. The Gregorian Reform of the Julian calendar introduced an extra day to make up the difference, with leap years of centuries divisible by four skipped,” according to a 2016 article in The Atlantic.

Is leap year an official holiday? I don’t think so. Schools, banks, and post offices don’t close on Feb. 29. But leap year does suffer with an identity crisis as far as celebrations go. It’s not an exciting event. What outfit do you wear? What party favors do you give? What songs do you sing? 

I propose an amendment to the United States Constitution. Make cheesecake the official dessert of Leap Year. Now that’s exciting. 

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Southern Ohio. Contact her at melissamcolumnist@gmail.com.

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