Leaping into Spring: Leap Day Explained

On February 29, DePaul sophomore Bradley Anderson celebrated his 5th birthday. Although Bradley has been around for 20 years, he has only celebrated five birthdays on the actual date of his birth. He is what we call a leap year baby: someone born on leap day.

This is Bradley celebrating his 5th official birthday.

It takes Earth 365.2422 days to orbit around the sun, but since our calendar uses 365 days, we would eventually reach a point where our calendar does not match the seasons. Adding an extra day to February every four years allows us to keep our concept of time in sync with Earth’s seasons.

Leap Year sun and earth orbit image

The origins of our current calendar are widely disputed, so it is difficult to determine the exact reason February was chosen to be the leap month. Rumors suggest that both Julius and Augustus Caesar are responsible for the extra day in February. According to some historians, when Augustus became emperor, he took two days from February to give his month, August, 31 days. Since this leaves February as the shortest month, it is logical to add the extra day there.

Others suggest that the United States’ shift from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar is responsible for the mass confusion of leap years, but there is no definitive evidence to suggest that this is wholly responsible for the current system.

533px-EwigKal calendarium perpetuumGregorian calendar image

The chances of being born on leap day are about 1 in 1,500. And for Bradley, being a leap year baby is something to be proud of.

“I actually love having my birthday on a leap year,” Bradley said. “It makes my birthday unique and truthfully makes leap years a little more special. I see leap years as a little more special than other years! I like to do a bigger celebration because it’s so rare. To be honest with you, more people send me cards and wish me a happy birthday on years that have a leap year!”


For the next three years, there will be no February 29 for Bradley to celebrate his birthday on. On non-leap years, as most leap year babies do, he moves his big celebration to a different day.

“I always celebrate my birthday on the 28th of February when there is no birthday,” he said. “That way, it’s still in February and I can celebrate for a second at midnight!”

happy birthday with candles pic

Personally, I could not imagine having my birthday on leap day. Since I have celebrated my birthday on February 1 every year for twenty years, having my actual birthday only roll around every four years would be strange.

For Bradley, a leap year birthday is not something to be upset about, but rather is something to cherish.

frog Leap Year blog post

“Having been raised knowing about leap years, I understand why they exist and appreciate the fact that I was born on one,” he said. “One time for my leap year birthday, my mom got all these frog yard signs and put them all over our yard. Frogs have always represented leap year for me! Another leap year, I got a limo with all my friends and rode around! My 16th birthday (which was a leap year), my grandma took me to LA, where I have always wanted to go!”

Yes, leap year is weird and confusing, but it’s all about the attitude. This leap year, as I grew frustrated with winter quarter and winter in general, that extra day in February seemed excruciating. I can’t help but think that if I had Bradley’s attitude, my leap day could have been as wonderful as his. Whether you are a leap year baby or born on a regular day like me, don’t let the concept of leap years get you down. Keep hoppin’ along.