15-year-old Gordon Central High School student Sam Anderson was born Feb. 29, 1996, and according to Anderson he usually celebrates his birthday on the 28th most years. Sam’s mother Elizabeth Anderson says she has researched being born on a leap year.
“It’s weird to have a kid that is born on Feb. 29,” said Elizabeth. “Sometimes, I’ve read that that can be a problem. If they’re ever applying for credit cards it will spit it back out because it’s only recognized every four years,” she said.
To get Sam his learner’s permit when he turned 15 was questionable. They decided to wait a couple days after his designated birthday, the 28th, before going to get his learners permit, said Elizabeth.
According to Elizabeth, there is a running joke on Sam’s birthday every year in the Anderson home.
“How old is Sam this year? I guess he will be four years old,” she said.
Brady Carney, 12, was also born on Feb. 29. Carney considers his birthday something special.
“I like having a Leap-Year birthday because it’s a little different,” said Brady.
According to Charity Carney, Brady’s mother, helping a child understand a Leap Year was different.
“Typically we will show him his birthday is on Feb. 28 so he can actually see it on a calendar, but he really likes celebrating it on the 29th,” Charity said.
Though these birthdays seem extra special, they are thus because they are rare. In fact, the next time Sam Anderson or Brady Carney will see their actual date of birth on a calendar will be Monday Feb. 29, 2016.
Technically, according to birth certificates of Sam Anderson and Brady Carney, Sam is four years old this year and Brady is turning three.
What is a Leap Year?
A Leap Year is “a year in the Gregorian Calendar containing 366 days with Feb. 29 as the extra day,” according to Webster’s Dictionary.
The Gregorian calendar, which is associated with the Catholic Church, has its foundation in history as long ago as 1582 with Pope Gregory XIII, according to “Leap Year: how the world makes up for lost time,” by Brian Handwerk for National Geographic news.
The concept of leap year starts with the revolutions of planet earth in a single calendar year.
In a perfect world, the earth completes one revolution, a complete orbit of the sun, every 24 hours, and subsequently, 365 rotations in a single calendar year, but here is where it gets sticky.
The earth actually orbits the sun every 365.242 days according to Handwerk.
Throughout history many famous civilizations such as the Mayans, Babylonians, Egyptians, Romans and ancient Chinese have predicted and mapped out calendars depicting how and when seasons would change, essentially basing each civilizations seasons and religious celebrations on these studies of sun, moon and stars.
According to Handwerk, the Romans like many other early civilizations adopted the lunar calendar, which equated to 364 days a year.
Hardwerk sites author David Ewing Duncan, author of Calendar: Humanities Epic Struggles to Determine a True and Accurate Year.
“Civilizations like Rome would add months to try and correct the drift of the lunar calendar,” said Duncan.
As time went on harvest time would mean seed planting because the seasons did not coincide with the calendar date intended.
To get where we are today we can thank the teamwork of the Roman, Julius Caesar and Pope Gregory XIII of the Catholic Church in 1582.
According to Handwerk, Julius Caesar adopted the concept from Cleopatra, the last Ptolemaic ruler from Egypt, the ruling dynasty between 305 and 30 B.C.
Egyptians were the first to discover the true length of the solar calendar, which our modern day calendar is based on, said Handwerk.
“That so-called Julian Calendar reorganized the 12 Roman months into a 365-day year with a leap year every four years. It was a tremendous improvement – but with a lingering flaw,” said Handwerk. “Because of this glitch, the Julian Calendar had drifted ten days by the late 16th century…. that extra quarter of a day of the leap year, added 11 minutes too many to the solar year, resulting in an entire day of discrepancy every 128 years,” he said.
Because of the 10-day shift in the Julian calendar by 1582, the Catholic Church began to recognize calendar dates did not match their intended seasons.
Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 decreed that once every four years there would be an additional day in one month, Leap Day, according to Handwerk.
Much of the western world today has adopted and utilizes this calendar we have today, but in our year 2007 those such as Ethiopia were celebrating the year 2000 because of the different calendar they follow, according to Handwerk.
There was simply chaos that ensued because of that rebellious 0.242 of a day floating around, but we celebrate leap day every four years today as well as much of the western world.