February is a great month. Not only is the entire month devoted to Black History, but the month also has Groundhog Day, Super Bowl Sunday, Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, Arizona Statehood Day, Presidents Day, and don’t forget National Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. Plus, it’s the last full month of winter!

This year, February is even better than last February, or the February before that, or even the February before that. Why? Because this February is one day longer than Februarys have been since 2020. It’s called a leap day, and it only happens every four years. Why is there an extra day? And, more importantly, what happens if you’re born on February 29? Do you only get a birthday every four years? We have some answers. 

February 29: Leap Day and Leap Year

Most years have 365 days, which is the amount of time it takes the Earth to make one trip around the sun—except that it’s not. It actually takes 365.2421 days to make a trip around the sun. If we didn’t add that day every four years, every trip the Earth took around the sun would leave it a little short of where it should be. Over the course of a few hundred years, winter would be in July and August, and summer would be in January and February. 

Leap Year History

The ancient Egyptians were the first to discover the need for an extra day every four years, and that calendar was adopted by the Roman emperor Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. 

The Romans had a calendar that never quite worked, and by the time Julius Caesar decided to adopt the Egyptian calendar, Rome’s calendar was about three months off. Julius Caesar designated the year 46 B.C. as the Year of Confusion and made it 445 days long so that the Roman calendar could get back on track. After that one extremely long year, Julius Caesar mandated a 365-day year, with an extra day every fourth year, which was called the Julian calendar after Julius Caesar, and it worked almost perfectly. Almost.

The Julian calendar still ended up being off by one day every 128 years, which Pope Gregory XIII fixed in 1582 with his Gregorian calendar. Consequently, there is still some monkey business that takes place every few hundred years, but we won’t concern ourselves with that here.

For a visual explanation, the video below should answer any other questions you may have:

February 29 Birthdays

If you’re lucky—or unlucky—enough to be born on February 29, you have three birthday-celebration options: Celebrate non-leap year birthdays on February 28, celebrate on March 1, or celebrate your birthday every four years on February 29. That last option would mean that someone born on February 29, 2008—instead of celebrating their 16th birthday this month—will be celebrating their fourth birthday. If you ask your parents or grandparents, that last option isn’t a bad way to go, since someone who would normally be celebrating their 40th birthday this leap day, would only now be turning 10-years-old. 

Yes, February is a great month, and this year, with February getting an extra day, you have an additional 24 hours to celebrate anything you want!