Leap Year Trivia
• Did you know that according to the Gregorian calendar, leap year doesn’t occur exactly every four years? That’s right—Pope Gregory XIII made leap year occur in years divisible by four, except for those divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400. Confusing enough for you? In effect, that means that 97 out of every 400 years are leap years, including the century years 1600 and 2000 but NOT 1700, 1800 and 1900.
• According to British tradition, a leap day is the only day of the year a woman can propose marriage to a man. As legend has it, in fifth century Ireland, St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about the fact that women had to wait for men to propose. So Patrick allowed women one day every four years to take the initiative. The tradition became the basis for Sadie Hawkins Day in the United States, first dreamed up by Al Capp in his cartoon serial “L’il Abner” and celebrated either on February 29 or November 15, the day the first L’il Abner comic appeared.
• Because Greek superstition holds that marrying in a leap year brings bad luck, as many as one of every five Greek couples avoid planning their weddings in a leap year.
• The first warrants for arrests in the Salem witchcraft trials were issued on February 29, 1692.
Many people born on leap day–known as “leaplings” or “leapers”–don’t usually wait four years to celebrate their birthdays, but choose to celebrate on February 28 or March 1 instead. Some 4.1 million people worldwide have been born on a February 29, and the chances of having a leap birthday are one in 1,461. In a fascinating family coincidence (according to the Guinness Book of World Records), Norway’s three Henriksen siblings were born on three consecutive leap days: Heidi in 1960, Olav in 1964 and Leif-Martin in 1968.
Some famous “Leaplings” throughout history include:
• Ann Lee, founder of the Shaker movement (born 1736)
• Gioacchino Rossini, composer (born 1792)
• Jimmy Dorsey, jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, trumpeter and big band leader (born 1904)
• Dinah Shore, singer and actress (born 1916)
• Billy Turner, trainer of Seattle Slew, winner of the 1977 Triple Crown (born 1940)
• Dennis Farina, actor (born 1944)
• Tony Robbins, self-help guru and motivational speaker (born 1960)
• Antonio Sabato Jr., actor (born 1972)
• Ja Rule, rapper/actor (born 1976)