5 facts you probably didn't know about Feb. 29


Posted at Feb 28 2020 07:47 PM | Updated as of Feb 28 2020 09:05 PM

MANILA -- It's not often a leap year comes around. So to mark this year's bonus day, here's some fast facts about it. 

1. Julius Caesar, the Father of the Leap Year

The reason we have a bonus day every four years is to keep the seasons in line, and it was the Roman leader who first came up with the idea. Prior, people used to sneak in an extra short month to their calendars to solve the sync issues whenever needed. 

The practice proved to be complicated -- and ineffective -- so Julius Caesar sought the advice of the top astronomers of the day, and in 46 B.C. implemented the leap year. And though imperfect until it was fine-tuned by Pope Gregory XIII and the Gregorian calendar, we still very much owe the extra day to Julius Caesar. 

Julius Caesar is considered to be the Father of the Leap Year. History Channel

2. Rarer than being born with 11 fingers? 

The chances of being born on February 29 is estimated to be one in 1,461. The math is simple: four years is 1,460 days so adding one for the leap year makes 1,461. There's questions surrounding this statistic, because of the practice of skipping leap years, but the fact remains that being a "leapling," or a "leaper," is very rare. 

Not rarer than being born with 11 fingers (that's said to be one in 500), but it still doesn't happen too often. You can compare the 1/1461 statistic to others here

What is extremely rare, though, was the case of a noble named Sir James Milne Wilson, the only known famous person to have been born and died on a leap day. 

3. Famous "leaplings"

Some notable people born on a leap day includes rapper Ja Rule, Hollywood actors Antonio Sabàto Jr., Peter Scanavino, and Alex Rocco, and jazz legend Jimmy Dorsey, to name a few.

But perhaps the most famous one is Superman himself, whose fictional birthday falls on the bonus day. It's different from his comics debut birthday, April 18, 1938, the date when Action Comics #1 was first published. 

Superman's fictional birthday falls on a leap day. Art by the late Filipino comic book artist Gerry Alanguilan and Pinoy artist Leinil Yu, DC Comics

4. The Leap Year Capital of the World

For all the "leaplings" out there, here's a place you might want to visit at some point: Anthony, Texas in the US. The tiny town has been throwing festivals every leap year for people born on the bonus days since 1988, thanks to a woman who proposed the idea as a sort of fundraiser for their community. 

You may want to wait until the next one though, considering the global situation regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

5. A notable date in Oscars history

This year marked the first-time an Asian film won the Oscar for Best Picture. And while the feat didn't fall on the leap day, what did was Hattie McDaniel's win back in 1940 for her role in "Gone with the Wind." Her best supporting actress win was the first time an African-American won the particular award. 

As a bonus, there was said to be a tradition of women proposing on a leap year in Scottish and Irish folklore. Its origins is very much disputed, but it was said to have been commonplace until the 19th century. 

A popular story is that Queen Margaret of Scotland, five years old at the time, came up with a law that set fines for men who would turn down marriage proposals by women on a leap year. 

A humorous post card poking fun at the old tradition of women proposing to men. Art by August Hutaff, from a collection posted on the website of Monmouth University, New Jersey, USA