Leap Year 2016: What is it and why do leap years exist?

An extra 24 hours — or day — is built into the calendar every four years to ensure it aligns with the Earth's movement around the sun. Jonathan Hayward/CP

Do you feel like you never have enough time?

Well, this year you’re getting an extra day to get ahead on your taxes or (finally) clean out the garage. (Hey, we’re not trying to tell you what do but you might as well be productive.)

February 29 is back on the calendar this year because it’s a leap year. Whether you love or loathe the extra winter day, you’re probably wondering why it happens in the first place.

An extra 24 hours — or day — is built into the calendar every four years to ensure it aligns with the Earth’s movement around the sun.

There’s 365 days in a calendar year, but it actually takes longer for the Earth’s annual journey — about 365.2421 days — around the star that gives us light, life and vitamin D. The difference may seem like no big deal to us, but over time, it adds up.

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“To ensure consistency with the true astronomical year, it is necessary to periodically add in an extra day to make up the lost time and get the calendar back in sync with the heavens,” according the

READ MORE: Daylight Saving Time 2016: When does the spring time change happen?

Acknowledgement of the need for a leap year happened around the time of Julius Caesar. In 46 B.C., Caesar enlisted the help of astronomer Sosigenes to update the calendar so that it had 12 months and 365 days, including a leap year every four years.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII saw a flaw in that calendar (a yearly surplus of 11 minutes) and introduced the gregorian calendar.

“In this model, leap years occur every four years except for years evenly divisible by 100 and not by 400,” according to “For example, the year 1900 was not a leap year because it was divisible by 100, but not 400.”

Leap year lore and facts

  • Women can only propose to their partners on Feb 29. There’s even a romcom about it. (lore)
  • People who are born on Feb. 29 celebrate their birth on Feb. 28 or March 1. In most cases they will never “look good” for their true age. (fact)
  • Famous “leapers” include actor Antonio Sabato, Jr. and musician Ja Rule. (fact)

Stay tuned to for more stories on how much it costs the Canadian government to run for an extra day as well as creative ways to mark Feb. 29.


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