Why do we have Leap Day?
Without Leap Day, it would be spring now. The Romans really mucked up the whole concept of Leap Day by adopting a 355-day year with an occasional 22-day Leap month. The Romans were party animals with a calendar; you couldn’t trust them at all.
Hence, we have Leap Day because we could not figure out a better way to make a calendar that adequately synchronized the movement of the sun with the twirling of the Earth.
Sadly, being born on Leap Day appears to be a fine guarantee of leading an unexceptional life recorded mainly in footnotes: Superstar scientist Linus Pauling was born Feb. 28. Director Ron Howard and Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison were born on March 1. Rapper Ja Rule was born Feb. 29, but before him, you have to go back to the big-band era for leaper birthdays of note: Dinah Shore and Tommy Dorsey were leapers.
The biggest social development associated with Feb. 29 is that it’s Sadie Hawkins Day. Women allegedly can ask their reluctant grooms to pony up with the ring already on Feb. 29. Guys don’t get a similar custom for Feb. 29, unless competitive commitment-dodging is considered a custom.
The plot of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance turns on Leap Day: The hero is apprenticed to the pirates until his 21st birthday. But because he’s a leaper, his 21st birthday doesn’t come until he’s 84. Gilbert & Sullivan: Such kidders.
From an article by Cheryl Truman