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What are you going to do with your Leap Day?

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By Dave Bell

Every fall, we're faced with the question of what to do with an extra hour on the day when we "fall back" at the end of Daylight Savings Time.

Every four years, however, we have an entire extra day. This Friday, Feb. 29 is one of those days.

As youll recall from the old Thirty days has September ditty that you learned in grade school, February normally has 28 except in leap years, when we get a bonus day. Absolutely free. No extra charge.

But what do you do with it?

And, for that matter, where does it come from?

To find out about it, I Googled leap year and came up with some very interesting facts.

The reason we have leap years is because our physical earth year (the time it takes to make one complete revolution around the sun) is 365.2425 days. Thus, if we use 365 days as our year without correcting it with a leap day every four years, our calendar would be off nearly six hours per year. If left uncorrected for 100 years, our calendar would be 24 days ahead of the actual seasons.

And I also learned that Leap Years dont happen EVERY four years. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII changed the Julian calendar by introducing a new rule that a century year (2000, 2100, 2200, etc.) is not a leap year unless it is divisible by 400 (2000 was; 2100 wont be). Thus, in those century years that cant be divided by 400, there would be an eight-year span between leap years 2096 to 2104, for example.

Leap days are more likely to occur on Mondays or Wednesdays, rather than other days, because the Gregorian calendar repeats itself every 400 years. As a result, leap day can occur 15 times on a Monday or a Wednesday, 14 times on a Friday or a Saturday, and 13 times on a Sunday, Tuesday or Thursday.

Leap day is sometimes called St. Oswalds Day, in honor of 10th century archbishop of York who died on Feb. 29, 992. The day is celebrated on Feb. 29 in leap years and Feb. 28 in other years.

Such is the problem of those who were born on Feb. 29. How do they celebrate their birthday? Turns out that most people celebrate their birthday on Feb. 28 in non-leap years, just to keep the celebration in the same month as their real birthday. However, some shift to March 1.

It is estimated that worldwide about 4 million people have been born on Feb. 29, including about 200,000 in the United States. The odds of a baby being born on that day are one in 1,461.

Most people that Ive known with leap day birthdays like to have a little fun with it. For instance, when theyre marking the 40th anniversary of their birth, they insist that theyre only 10. If nothing else, its a good conversation starter.

For those of us who marvel at Gods precision in his creation, this leap day stuff is a bit puzzling. Why didnt He just make it an even 365 and spare us from all these confusing adjustments?

I guess it gives the astronomers, mathematicians and journalists something to ponder.

Enjoy your bonus day this Friday!