2012 is a leap year, meaning that February, the shortest month, has an extra day, bringing the year to 366 days. This notable event comes only every four years. Which means you have an extra 24 hours. So what will you do with yourself? How about heading to Disneyland for 24 hours straight, catching a movie, or spending the day skiing?
Lookups on the Web are taking a leap, including “leap day activities,” along with the quadrennial questions: “what is leap year,” “why is there a leap year” and “history of leap year.” Here, your guide to the day.
When is it? An extra day is added to the month of February every four years. This year, Leap Day is on Wednesday, February 29.
Why we need Leap Day: Usually, our year is 365 days long. Except that it’s not: A full cycle of seasons is actually 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds long, or about 365.25 days. Over time, the extra quarter of a day adds up, and without Leap Day, the calendar would be one day out of sync with the seasons. After 30 years, it would be about a week off, and after 100 years, it would be nearly a month off.
Bing Quock, the assistant director of Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences, explains, “Leap Day is added as a correction to the calendar so that it stays in sync with the seasons … that way, the seasons start on the same day from year to year to year.”
The history of Leap Year: Leap Year has been around for 2,000 years, since Julius Caesar created the 365-day calendar, although Caesar’s astronomer, Sosigenes, get s credit for adding an extra day in February every four years.
How to celebrate: Fans of Disney parks will be lining up to take advantage of “One More Disney Day” at Disneyland in California and at Magic Kingdom in Florida, which will be open for 24 hours, from February 29 at 6 a.m. until 6 a.m. March 1. Michele Himmelberg, a spokesperson for Disney, said it’s the first time in recent memory that theme parks on both coasts will be open to mark the quadrennial event. She confirmed the rides will run all night. Hey, come in your PJs.
Leap Year babies probably have the biggest reason to rejoice — since they see their birthdate only once every four years. Yahoo! searches are in a festive mood with lookups on “leap year birthdays,” “leap year birthday cards,” and “leap year party ideas.” Good news for ski bums born on February 29: Show your Leap Year birthday date and get a free stay at Mammoth ski resorts.
If you prefer to mark the extra day on your couch, there’s always “Leap Day,” the movie. The 2010 romantic comedy stars Amy Adams and is based on an Irish tradition that a man must say yes to a woman who proposes to him on Leap Day. Some NBC shows have already run their Leap Day-themed episodes, which included “30 Rock’s” alternative-universe idea that Leap Day is celebrated like an actual holiday and even has a mascot, “Leap Day William” (Jim Carrey), who stars in a “Groundhog Day“-type movie with Andie MacDowell. Its message: Take a leap.