Leap Day explained and ideas for celebrating the ‘extra day’

Local News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Besides being a presidential election year, 2020 is a leap year, a calendar system practiced for over 1,000 years. To mark the special day several businesses offer free or reduced prices for leap day babies.

It actually takes the Earth 365.2422 days to orbit the sun, according to NASA. That’s 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. Adding a day to the month of February every four years helps to make up the extra time not considered in a 365-day calendar.

According to Joe Wolf, an instructor of medieval history at Virginia Tech the practice adopted in the U.S. goes back to a Roman practice from the medieval church introduced by Julius Caesar.

The church wanted Easter to be celebrated in the spring.

“Easter always has to come after the vernal [spring] equinox, following the first full moon. If the date of the vernal equinox was always changing, it made calculating the date of Easter difficult,” Wolf said.

A leap year helps to align astronomical events like the solstices, equinoxes, and the seasons with the months, Wolf said. Without the extra day every four years, Wolf said, “We could be sitting in the month of July, and it would be winter and snowing outside.”

Wolf added it would take about seven centuries without leap day for that scenario to occur.

Several celebrities and even a congressman celebrate their birthday on Feb. 29. Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.) turns 12 years old tomorrow.

He shares the day with inspirational speaker and author Tony Robbins, who will turn sweet 15. Ja Rule, rapper and songwriter will have 11 candles on his cake.

So, what are some ways to celebrate the extra day whether you are leap year baby or not?

  • Get free or discounted food, including at Krispy Kreme donuts. Click here for a list of restaurants commemorating the day.
  • Do something you otherwise would not do because you “never have the time” such as go on a walk, call on or visit an elderly family member or neighbor, visit your local library or museum, listen to a music album;
  • Have fun at Corned Beef and Company’s ‘Hoppy Leap Year Party’; and
  • Women only: Propose to your significant other. According to Irish tradition, women are only allowed to pop the big question on Leap Day.


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