This article is about the calendar day. For the South Korean film, see February 29 (film)
February 29, also known as a leap day in the Gregorian calendar, is a date that occurs in most years that are divisible by 4, such as 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. Years that are divisible by 100, but not by 400, do not contain a leap day; thus 1900 did not contain a leap day while 2000 did. Years containing a leap day are called leap years. February 29 is the 60th day of the Gregorian calendar in such a year, with 306 days remaining until the end of the year.
Although most years of the modern calendar have 365 days, a complete revolution around the sun takes approximately 365 days and 6 hours. Every four years, during which an extra 24 hours have accumulated, one extra day is added to keep the count coordinated with the sun's apparent position.
It is, however, slightly inaccurate to calculate an additional 6 hours each year. A better approximation, derived from the Alfonsine tables, is that the Earth makes a complete revolution around the sun in 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds. As required by the Gregorian calendar, to compensate for the difference, an end-of-century year is not a leap year unless it is also exactly divisible by 400. This means that the years 1600 and 2000 were leap years, as will be 2400 and 2800, but the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not, nor will 2100, 2200, and 2300.
The Gregorian calendar repeats itself every 400 years, which is exactly 20,871 weeks including 97 leap days. Over this period, February 29 falls on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday 13 times each; 14 times each on Friday and Saturday; and 15 times each on Monday and Wednesday.
The concepts of the leap year and leap day are distinct from the leap second, which results from changes in the Earth's rotational speed.
Adding a leap day (after 23 February) shifts the commemorations in the 1962 Roman Missal
The leap day was introduced as part of the Julian reform. The day following the Terminalia (February 23) was doubled, forming the "bis sextum"—literally 'double sixth', since February 24 was 'the sixth day before the Kalends of March' using Roman inclusive counting (March 1 was the 'first day'). Although exceptions exist, the first day of the bis sextum (February 24) was usually regarded as the intercalated or "bissextile" day since the third century. February 29 came to be regarded as the leap day when the Roman system of numbering days was replaced by sequential numbering in the late Middle Ages.
- 1504 – Christopher Columbus uses his knowledge of a lunar eclipse that night to convince Native Americans to provide him with supplies.
- 1644 – Abel Tasman's second Pacific voyage began.
- 1704 – Queen Anne's War: French forces and Native Americans stage a raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts, killing 56 villagers and taking more than 100 captive.
- 1712 – February 29 is followed by February 30 in Sweden, in a move to abolish the Swedish calendar for a return to the Old style.
- 1720 – Queen Ulrika Eleonora of Sweden abdicates in favour of her husband, who becomes King Frederick I.
- 1752 – King Alaungpaya founds Konbaung Dynasty, the last dynasty of Burmese monarchy
- 1768 – Polish nobles formed Bar Confederation.
- 1796 – The Jay Treaty between the United States and Great Britain comes into force, facilitating ten years of peaceful trade between the two nations.
- 1864 – American Civil War: Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid fails – plans to free 15,000 Union soldiers being held near Richmond, Virginia are thwarted.
- 1892 – St. Petersburg, Florida is incorporated.
- 1916 – Child labor: In South Carolina, the minimum working age for factory, mill, and mine workers is raised from twelve to fourteen years old.
- 1920 – Czechoslovak National assembly adopted the Constitution.
- 1936 – Baby Snooks, played by Fanny Brice, debuts on the radio program The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air.
- 1936 – February 26 Incident in Tokyo ends.
- 1940 – For her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African American to win an Academy Award.
- 1940 – Finland initiates Winter War peace negotiations
- 1940 – In a ceremony held in Berkeley, California, because of the war, physicist Ernest Lawrence receives the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics from Sweden's Consul General in San Francisco.
- 1944 – World War II: The Admiralty Islands are invaded in Operation Brewer led by American General Douglas MacArthur.
- 1952 – The island of Heligoland is restored to German authority.
- 1960 – An earthquake in Morocco kills over 3,000 people and nearly destroys Agadir in the southern part of the country.
- 1964 – In Sydney, Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser sets a new world record in the 100-meter freestyle swimming competition (58.9 seconds).
- 1972 – Vietnam War: Vietnamization – South Korea withdraws 11,000 of its 48,000 troops from Vietnam.
- 1980 – Gordie Howe of the then Hartford Whalers makes NHL history as he scores his 800th goal.
- 1988 – South African archbishop Desmond Tutu is arrested along with 100 clergymen during a five-day anti-apartheid demonstration in Cape Town.
- 1988 – Svend Robinson becomes the first member of the Canadian House of Commons to come out as gay.
- 1992 – First day of Bosnia and Herzegovina independence referendum.
- 1996 – Faucett Flight 251 crashes in the Andes, all 123 passengers and crew died.
- 2004 – Jean-Bertrand Aristide is removed as President of Haiti following a coup.
- 2012 – Tokyo Skytree construction completed. Now it is the tallest tower in the world, 634 meters high, and second tallest (man-made) structure on Earth, next to Burj Khalifa.
A person who is born on February 29 may be called a "leapling" or a "leap year baby". In non-leap years, some leaplings celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1, while others only observe birthdays on the authentic intercalary dates.
In the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, a person born on February 29 legally attains the age of 18 on March 1 in the relevant year.
In cases of New Zealand citizens, the Parliament has decreed that if a date of birth was February 29, in non-leap years the legal birth date date shall be the preceding day, February 28. This is affirmed in §2(2) of the Land Transport Act 1999.
In the United States, a person legally attains a given age on the day before his corresponding birthday, i.e., the anniversary of his birth corresponding to that age. Accordingly, anyone born on a Leap Day legally turns 21 on February 28th, twenty-one years later.
In Taiwan (Republic of China) and in New Zealand, the legal birthday of a leapling is February 28 in common years:
- "If a period fixed by weeks, months, and years does not commence from the beginning of a week, month, or year, it ends with the ending of the day which proceeds the day of the last week, month, or year which corresponds to that on which it began to commence. But if there is no corresponding day in the last month, the period ends with the ending of the last day of the last month."
Thus, in England and Wales or in Hong Kong, a person born on February 29, 1996, will have legally reached 18 years old on March 1, 2014. If he or she was born in the United States, Taiwan or New Zealand, he or she legally becomes 18 on February 28, 2014, a day earlier.
There are many instances in children's literature where a person's claim to be only a quarter of their actual age turns out to be based on counting their leap-year birthdays. A similar device is used in the plot of Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance: As a child, Frederic was apprenticed to a band of pirates until his 21st birthday. Now, having passed his 21st year, he leaves the pirate band and falls in love. However, since he was born on February 29, that day will not arrive until he is in his eighties. As such, he must leave his fiancée and return to the pirates. It may be worked out from the opera's dialogue that Frederic's birthday is February 29, 1852 thus making the opera set in 1873. (This assumes that Frederic is aware that 1900 will not be a leap year. If not, the dates would be later by four years.) This plot point was also used in a Sherlock Holmes story based on the Basil Rathbone era, where a friend of Dr. Watson's is a baronet who is due to receive his inheritance on the New Year's Day of the year where his twenty-first birthday will be celebrated, only for the law to deprive him of the money as he was born on February 29; with the 84-year-old Baronet distraught at the news that 1900 is not a leap year, Holmes helps the Baronet fake his death long enough for his grandson- who is the appropriate age to receive the inheritance- to establish his claim and receive the money himself.
Other notable persons born on February 29:
- 1468 – Pope Paul III (d. 1549)
- 1568 – Juan Bautista Comes, Spanish composer (d. 1643)
- 1692 – John Byrom, English poet (d. 1763)
- 1724 – Eva Marie Veigel, ballet dancer and wife of actor David Garrick (d. 1822)
- 1736 – Ann Lee, American founder of Shakers (d. 1784)
- 1792 – Gioachino Rossini, Italian composer (d. 1868)
- 1812 – Sir James Wilson, Premier of Tasmania (d. 1880)
- 1828 – Emmeline B. Wells, American women's rights advocate (d. 1921)
- 1836 – Dickey Pearce, American baseball player and manager (d. 1908)
- 1840 – John Philip Holland, Irish inventor (d. 1914)
- 1848 – Arthur Giry, French historian (d. 1899)
- 1852 – Frank Gavan Duffy, Australian judge (d. 1936)
- 1852 – George Maximilianovich, 6th Duke of Leuchtenberg, Russian nobleman (d. 1912)
- 1860 – Herman Hollerith, American statistician (d. 1929)
- 1892 – Ed Appleton, American baseball player (d. 1932)
- 1892 – Augusta Savage, African-American sculptor (d. 1962)
- 1896 – Morarji Desai, Prime Minister of India (d. 1995)
- 1896 – Roy Parker, baseball player (d. 1954)
- 1896 – William A. Wellman, American film director (d. 1975)
- 1904 – Jimmy Dorsey, American bandleader (d. 1957)
- 1904 – Pepper Martin, baseball player (d. 1965)
- 1904 – Rukmini Devi Arundale, Indian dancer (d. 1986)
- 1908 – Balthus, French-Polish painter (d. 2001)
- 1908 – Dee Brown, American writer (d. 2002)
- 1908 – Alf Gover, English cricketer (d. 2001)
- 1916 – Dinah Shore, American singer and actress (d. 1994)
- 1920 – Arthur Franz, American actor (d. 2006)
- 1920 – James Mitchell, American actor (d. 2010)
- 1920 – Michèle Morgan, French actress
- 1920 – Howard Nemerov, American poet (d. 1991)
- 1920 – Ivan Ivanovich Petrov, Russian operatic bass (d. 2003)
- 1920 – Rolland W. Redlin, American politician (d. 2011)
- 1920 – Fyodor Abramov, Russian novelist (d. 1983)
- 1924 – Al Rosen, American baseball player
- 1924 – David Beattie, New Zealand Governor-General (d. 2001)
- 1924 – Carlos Humberto Romero, President of El Salvador
- 1928 – Joss Ackland, English actor
- 1928 – Vance Haynes, American archaeologist
- 1928 – Terry Lewis, Australian police commissioner
- 1928 – Seymour Papert, South African mathematician
- 1928 – Tempest Storm, American burlesque performer
- 1932 – Paul Giel, American baseball player (d. 2002)
- 1932 – Gene Golub, American mathematician (d. 2007)
- 1932 – Masten Gregory, American F1 Driver (d. 1985)
- 1932 – Reri Grist, African-American coloratura soprano
- 1932 – Jaguar, Brazilian cartoonist
- 1936 – Jack Lousma, American astronaut
- 1936 – Henri Richard, Canadian ice hockey player
- 1936 – Alex Rocco, American actor
- 1940 – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople
- 1940 – Gopichand Hinduja, President, Hinduja Group of Companies
- 1940 – William H. Turner, Jr. American horse trainer
- 1944 – Ene Ergma, Estonian politician
- 1944 – Dennis Farina, American actor
- 1944 – Nicholas Frayling, Dean of Chichester Cathedral
- 1944 – Phyllis Frelich, American actress
- 1944 – Steve Mingori, American baseball player (d. 2008)
- 1944 – Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri, Italian illustrator
- 1948 – Jirō Akagawa, Japanese novelist
- 1948 – Gérard Darmon, French movie actor and singer
- 1948 – Ken Foree, American actor
- 1948 – Hermione Lee, President of Wolfson College, Oxford
- 1952 – Al Autry, American baseball player
- 1952 – Sharon Dahlonega Raiford Bush, American TV personality
- 1952 – Tim Powers, American writer
- 1952 – Raisa Smetanina, Russian cross-country skier
- 1952 – Bart Stupak, American congressman
- 1956 – Jonathan Coleman, Anglo-Australian entertainer
- 1956 – Jerry Fry, American baseball player
- 1956 – Bob Speller, Canadian politician
- 1956 – J. Randy Taraborrelli, American celebrity journalist
- 1956 – Aileen Wuornos, American serial killer (d. 2002)
- 1960 – Khaled, Algerian raï musician
- 1960 – Bill Long, American baseball player
- 1960 – Richard Ramirez, American serial killer
- 1960 – Tony Robbins, American motivational speaker
- 1964 – Lyndon Byers, Canadian hockey player and radio personality
- 1964 – Mervyn Warren, American film & TV composer and musician (Take 6)
- 1968 – Suanne Braun, South African actress
- 1968 – Chucky Brown, American basketball player
- 1968 – Pete Fenson, American curler
- 1968 – Naoko Iijima, Japanese actress
- 1968 – Gonzalo Lira, Chilean-American novelist
- 1968 – Howard Tayler, American cartoonist & author
- 1968 – Bryce Paup, American football player
- 1968 – Wendi Peters, British actress
- 1968 – Eugene Volokh, American law professor
- 1968 – Frank Woodley, Australian comedian
- 1972 – Antonio Sabàto, Jr., Italian-born actor
- 1972 – Dave Williams, American singer (Drowning Pool) (d. 2002)
- 1972 – Saul Williams, American rapper, poet, and actor
- 1972 – Mike Pollitt, English footballer
- 1972 – Pedro Zamora, Cuban-born American activist (d. 1994)
- 1972 – Iván García, Cuban athlete
- 1976 – Katalin Kovács, Hungarian sprint canoer
- 1976 – Ja Rule, American rapper and actor
- 1976 – Terrence Long, American baseball player
- 1976 – Zoë Baker, New Zealand swimmer
- 1980 – Simon Gagné, Canadian ice hockey player
- 1980 – Patrick Côté, Canadian mixed martial artist
- 1980 – Taylor Twellman, American soccer player
- 1980 – Clinton Toopi, New Zealand rugby league footballer
- 1980 – Chris Conley, American musician (Saves the Day and Two Tongues)
- 1980 – Rubén Plaza, Spanish cyclist
- 1980 – Michail Mouroutsos, Greek Olympic taekwondo gold medalist
- 1984 – Darren Ambrose, English footballer
- 1984 – Cullen Jones, American swimmer
- 1984 – Nuria Martinez, Spanish basketball player
- 1984 – Adam Sinclair, Indian field hockey player
- 1984 – Dennis Walger, German rugby player
- 1984 – Cam Ward, Canadian ice hockey player
- 1984 – Mark Foster, American musician (Foster the People)
- 1988 – Scott Golbourne, English footballer
- 1988 – Benedikt Höwedes, German footballer
- 1988 – Bobby Sanguinetti, American ice hockey player
- 1992 – Perry Kitchen, American soccer player
- 1992 – Sean Abbott, Australian cricketer
- 1992 – Caitlin EJ Meyer, American actress
- 992 – Oswald of Worcester, archbishop of York (b. c.925)
- 1212 – Hōnen, Japanese religious reformer (b. 1133)
- 1528 – Patrick Hamilton, Scottish religious reformer (b. 1504)
- 1592 – Alessandro Striggio, Italian composer (b. 1540)
- 1600 – Caspar Hennenberger, German Lutheran pastor, historian and cartographer (b. 1529)
- 1604 – John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury (b. 1530)
- 1740 – Pietro Ottoboni, Italian cardinal (b. 1667)
- 1744 – John Theophilus Desaguliers, French philosopher (b. 1683)
- 1792 – Johann Andreas Stein, German piano builder (b. 1728)
- 1820 – Johann Joachim Eschenburg, German literary critic (b. 1743)
- 1848 – Louis-François, Baron Lejeune, French general and painter (b. 1775)
- 1868 – Ludwig I of Bavaria (b. 1786)
- 1880 – Sir James Wilson, Premier of Tasmania (b. 1812, also on February 29)
- 1908 – Pat Garrett, American gunslinger (b. 1850)
- 1908 – John Hope, 1st Marquess of Linlithgow, first Governor-General of Australia (b. 1860)
- 1920 – Ernie Courtney, American baseball player (b. 1875)
- 1928 – Ina Coolbrith, first poet laureate of California (b. 1841)
- 1928 – Adolphe Appia, Swiss stage designer (b. 1862)
- 1940 – Edward Frederic Benson, English writer (b. 1867)
- 1944 – Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, President of Finland (b. 1861)
- 1948 – Rebel Oakes, American baseball player and manager (b. 1883)
- 1952 – Quo Tai-chi, Chinese diplomat (b. 1888)
- 1956 – Elpidio Quirino, President of the Philippines (b. 1890)
- 1960 – Walter Yust, American journalist and writer (b. 1894)
- 1960 – Melvin Purvis, American law enforcement official and Federal Bureau of Investigation agent (b. 1903)
- 1964 – Frank Albertson, American actor (b. 1909)
- 1968 – Lena Blackburne, American baseball player and manager (b. 1886)
- 1968 – Tore Ørjasæter, Norwegian poet (b. 1886)
- 1972 – Tom Davies, American footballer (b. 1896)
- 1976 – Florence Dwyer, American politician (b. 1902)
- 1980 – Gil Elvgren, American artist (b. 1914)
- 1980 – Yigal Allon, Israeli politician and soldier (b. 1918)
- 1984 – Ludwik Starski, Polish lyricist (b. 1903)
- 1988 – Sidney Harmon, American film producer (b. 1907)
- 1992 – Ruth Pitter, English poet (b. 1897)
- 1992 – Earl Scheib, American car repainter (b. 1908)
- 1992 – La Lupe, Cuban-American singer (b. 1939)
- 1996 – Wes Farrell, American songwriter and musician (b. 1939)
- 1996 – Shams Pahlavi, Persian princess (b. 1917)
- 1996 – Ralph Rowe, American baseball player and manager (b. 1924)
- 2000 – Dennis Danell, American guitarist (Social Distortion) (b. 1961)
- 2004 – Jerome Lawrence, American playwright (b. 1915)
- 2004 – Lorrie Wilmot, South African cricketer (b. 1943)
- 2004 – Kagamisato Kiyoji, Japanese sumo wrestler, the 42nd Yokozuna (b. 1923)
- 2004 – Toni Onley, Canadian landscape painter (b. 1928)
- 2004 – Harold Bernard St. John, Barbadian politician, (b. 1931)
- 2008 – Janet Kagan, American author (b. 1946)
- 2008 – Erik Ortvad, Danish artist (b. 1917)
- 2012 – Davy Jones, English singer, songwriter and actor (The Monkees) (b. 1945)
- 2012 – Sheldon Moldoff, Golden Age and Silver Age comic book artist (b. 1920)
Holidays and observances
There is a popular tradition in some countries that a woman may propose marriage to a man on February 29. If the man refuses, he then is obligated to give the woman money or buy her a dress. In upper-class societies in Europe, if the man refuses marriage, he then must purchase 12 pairs of gloves for the woman, suggesting that the gloves are to hide the woman's embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. In Ireland, the tradition is supposed to originate from a deal that Saint Bridget struck with Saint Patrick.
In Greece it is considered unlucky to marry on Leap Day.
Rare Leap Day milestones
The only notable person known to have both been born and died on February 29 was Sir James Wilson (1812–1880), Premier of Tasmania.
In 2012, one of the rarest feats in the annals of family planning had occurred. A Utah woman gave birth on a third consecutive Leap Day, tying a record set in the 1960s. The only other known case of triple Leap Day babies is a family in Norway, which logged Feb. 29 births in 1960, 1964 and 1968, according to the Guinness World Records press office.