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2024 is a leap year (But why do we have leap years?) |

Arts and Culture

2024 is a leap year (But why do we have leap years?)

Dolly Dy-Zulueta -
2024 is a leap year (But why do we have leap years?)
2024 calendars being prepared at a printing press along Quezon Boulevard in Manila
STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Yes, 2024 is a leap year. Just look at your calendar, find “February 29” neatly tucked between the usual February 28 and March 1, and you know it is a leap year.

A leap year is when an extra day, assigned as February 29, is added in the calendar, and it happens every four years. During a leap year, so goes the “joke,” a woman is given the license to chase after the man of her dreams and not just wait around for him to notice her and start paying her romantic attention. She is allowed to “initiate” an eventual romance, which does not say much these days because modern women do that now, leap year or not.

Technically, a leapling, who is a person born on February 29, finds himself having to choose when — February 28 or March 1 — he (or she!) celebrates his birthday for the next three years, as he gets to celebrate on his real birthday only once every four years.

But why do we have leap years? It is because the Gregorian calendar which we follow, does not have a perfect 365 days as we are taught to assume. A year, according to the Gregorian calendar, has an imperfect 365.25 days since it is based on the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. To eliminate complications, the Gregorian calendar settles on a 365-day year for three years and adjusts the difference by adding an extra day on the fourth year. This extra day keeps the calendar aligned correctly with the seasons because, without it, the Gregorian calendar would be off by 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds more every year.

So, the simple rule to remember is that a leap year happens every four years. But this is not always so. According to the Almanac, the general rule is that a year may be a leap year is it is evenly divisible by 4. But years divisible by 100 cannot be considered as leap years unless they are also divisible by 400. This explains why century years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years but 1600 and 2000 were leap years.

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