All your leap year questions answered: Unravelling the unique mystery of 2024

File picture: Pexels

File picture: Pexels

Published Feb 4, 2024


By Rekha Singh


2024 is a leap year. The shortest month of year, February, has 29 days instead of the usual 28 days.

Something that happens once every 4 years, or does it?

Why do we have a leap year?

A leap year has one extra day added to it due to Earth’s orbit around the sun which takes 365.2422 days which is slightly more than our standard calendar year of 365 days.

This means that the solar year (Earth’s one revolution of 365.2422 days around the sun) is not aligned to our calendar year of 365 days – a difference of 0.2422 days. This means that without a leap year, our calendar will slowly drift out of sync with the seasons. The equinoxes and solstices would move around the days and months… It can even result in Winter in December!

What is the origin of the leap year?

This phenomenon of leap year originated around 46BC, by Julius Caesar. His calendar, the Julian calendar, had 365 ¼ year which came quite close to approximating the solar calendar of 365.2422 years.

But since the Julian calendar was longer 0.0078 days (11 minutes and 4 sec) longer than the solar year, this resulted in our calendar being off by about 10 too many days in 1582. It needed to be drastically reformed.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII wiped out 10 days from the Julian calendar so that the season was back in line with the solar year.

The calendar then jumped directly from 4 October to 15 October - Quite a bizarre right.

The maths of a leap year

All years are not leap years.

The Julian calendar was revised by specifying that. These are the main difference between normal years and leap years:

– all years divisible by 4 are to be leap years.

– Years divisible by 100 are not leap years unless divisible by 400.

– For example, centurial year, 1700 is not leap year but centurial year 2000 is.

– 2000 is divisible by 4 and 400 whilst 1700 is not divisible by 400, therefore not a leap. When leapers celebrate birthdays in non-leap years

What it’s like to be born on a leap year

A non-leap brings a labyrinth of confusion which is the sweetest part of being born on a leap year, said leapling Rekha Singh.

Singh, a chartered accountant, born on 29 February, says most leaplings celebrate on the 28 Feb or 1 March… but Singh do both. “I can claim my actual age or actual age divided by 4. I am 12 this leap year – you do the maths?” said Singh.