This year is a leap year! What is a Leap Year? A leap Year is when an extra day is added to the shortest month of the year, February, it happens every four years. The extra day is called Leap Day and the next one is Monday February 29, 2016.

Why Add Leap Years? Leap Years are needed to keep our modern day Gregorian calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. It takes the Earth approximately 365.242199 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds – to circle once around the Sun.

However, the Gregorian calendar has only 365 days in a year, so if we didn’t add a day on February 29 nearly every 4 years, we would lose almost six hours off our calendar every year. After only 100 years, our calendar would be off by approximately 24 days!

Did you know Leap Day has been a day of traditions, folklore and superstitions ever since it was introduced over 2000 years ago? Here are some of the traditions:

  • Women propose to their men. According to an old Irish legend, or possibly history, St Brigid struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every four years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.
  • 12 Pairs of Gloves. In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.
  • Leap Year Day Babies Honor Society. The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, is a free membership birthday club for people born on February 29th.  Over 10,000 people from all over the world have joined since the website was launched in 1997.
  • Unlucky Day. In Scotland, it used to be considered unlucky for someone to be born on Leap Day, just like Friday 13th is considered an unlucky day. Greeks consider it unlucky for couples to marry during a Leap Year, and especially on Leap Day.

Fun things to do on Leap Day this year:

  1. Play Leapfrog. Watch this video to see how to play this fun children’s game
  2. Make Pickled Eggs. Don’t worry its just a fun snack turning pickles into frogs.
  3. Write a letter. Help children write letters to themselves that they can open on the next Leap Day.
  4. Frog Origami. Using green construction paper, make your own origami frogs.
  5. Leap Day Reading. Read Leopold’s Long Awaited Leap Year Birthday by Dawn Desjardins.