INTERACTIVE: Leaping into a leap year – unique facts about Feb 29

PETALING JAYA: This month, a unique day appears in our calendars: Feb 29, or leap day.

Around five million people worldwide were born on this special date, which only comes once in almost every four years.

It’s a day that was added to ensure our calendar will be in line with Earth’s orbit around the sun, because the trip actually takes longer than 365 days – about a quarter of a day longer.

To make up for the difference, this extra day is put into leap years, like this year, making it a total of 366 days.

As we count down to Feb 29 this year, here are some insights about leap day, from birthdays to beliefs.

Malaysian leap day babies

Leap day babies, or those born on Feb 29, are a rare group of people.

In Malaysia, only a total of 22,585 people were born on this date over the past century.

This number is far smaller than the number of babies born on the 29th of other months.

On average, there were about 87,456 births on the 29th of each month from 1920 to 2022 – over three times more than the 22,585 on Feb 29.

The large disparity is due to Feb 29 only occurring during leap years, whereas the 29th of other months occurs every year.

In fact, leap day babies make up only 0.063% of the total 36 million people born in Malaysia between 1920 and 2022, based on data from the National Registration Department uploaded on data.gov.my

To find out why not every fourth year is a leap year, check out the trivia below this page.

Y2K babies are No.1

Those who turn 24 on Feb 29 this year, or people born in the year 2000, make up the largest group of leap day babies in Malaysia.

This group of youths outnumber others born on the same date in Malaysia since 1920.

A total of 1,547 people were born on leap day in 2000, with the second biggest group being those born in 1988 with 1,476 individuals.

Leap days in the news

While leap days are indeed special, it’s also still business as usual for many, including The Star.

Here’s a look at The Star’s frontpages on Feb 29 since 1972 – the first leap year since the newspaper was born in 1971.

Chinese zodiac, US President and the Olympics

It’s interesting to note that there are several trends and events that run in tandem with leap years.

One of them is that leap years will only occur in three Chinese zodiac years: Rat, Dragon and Monkey.

This happens because these three animal signs are four years apart from each other in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle.

Leap years never fall on other Chinese zodiac years.

Apart from that, there are two events which are always held in leap years: the US presidential election and the Summer Olympics.

Beginning on a leap year in 1788, the US presidential election has since been held every four years until today.

It’s a similar story for the Summer Olympics – the first occurred in 1896 in Athens, Greece and has been held every four years after that.

The reason for the four-year interval is to respect the ancient origins of the Olympic Games, which were held every four years at Olympia, according to the International Olympic Committee website.

The only exception was Tokyo 2020, which was actually held in 2021 – a non-leap year- because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Leap day babies, unite

This year, an organisation is attempting to set a Guinness World Record for the most number of leap day babies gathered on leap day, by uniting those born on Feb 29,

The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, based in the USA, said the Leap Day Birthday Bash will be held on a cruise to the Bahamas, from Feb 26 to March 1.

Meanwhile, there’s also an existing world record on the most siblings born on a leap day, according to the Guinness World Records website.

A family in Norway set this record when the three children of Karin and Henry Henriksen were born on Feb 29.

“Heidi (1960), Olav (1964) and Leif-Martin (1968) all celebrate their birthdays infrequently, as they fall on Leap Day,” read the website.

As the leap day approaches, here are more fascinating facts that we can all learn about Feb 29:

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