The earth takes 365 1/4 days to go around the sun. So for our calendars to reflect the seasons of the year, we account for that quarter day by adding a day to the calendar every four years. And since we stick it on to the shortest month of the year, that day is today!
You could complain that you have to work an extra day this month without any extra pay. Or you could be glad that you are getting an extra day of rent free. But you should look at February 29 as a bonus, the gift of a day.
I want to give special congratulations to those of you born on February 29 and so only have a birthday, technically, every four years. (How do you celebrate your birthday otherwise? On February 28 or March 1? Do any of you Leap Year babies just wait to celebrate every four years?)
I remember as a kid reading the comic strip Little Orphan Annie. There had been lots of jokes about how the strip had been running for 44 years, though its heroine was still a young girl. Then its creator Harold Gray said that Annie was born on Leap Year, so that after four decades, she was only 11. (As the strip went on, up to Gray’s death in 1968, he reportedly aged her one year for every four years that passed. The strip carried on with other writers and an ageless Annie until 2010.)
According to the folk tradition in many countries, women may propose to men during a leap year. In some versions, the man has to accept, and if he doesn’t, he has to pay a fine of giving the woman a present. In some cultures, women may propose marriage to a man any time during the year. In others, it has to be on “Leap Day”; that is, February 29. Some of you may want to take advantage of this.