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What is a leap year and why does it happen?

Posted at 6:40 PM, Feb 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-22 21:05:54-04

NEW YORK — A leap year is a phenomenon that happens every four years, but what exactly is it and why does it happen?

Well, it’s a way to synchronize the solar calendar with the calendar year. If you divide the number of days we live into the year, you’ll get an uneven number.

It takes 365 ¼ days for the earth to complete its orbit around the sun. We take that extra quarter day for three years and add them together with the fourth year. Those four quarters now make up one day, which is given to the shortest month, February.

Adding that extra day means more time. But for some, it also means something extra to worry about.

The odds of being born on February 29th are 1 in 1,461, or . 068%. Dr. Judith Joseph, an adult and child psychiatrist at Manhattan Behavioral Medicine in Midtown, tells her patients that instead of thinking about it as glass half empty, take the glass half full approach and be optimistic.

"I do treat families where there’s a child who was born on a leap day and depending on culture, people view it as being a negative or unlucky day. They kinda pressure people to pick March 1st or Feb. 28th as a birthday instead. People seem to think of therapy as something where you talk about negative problems and so forth. But research is showing that we need to focus on positive aspects and not just negative things and it really does overall improve your wellness," Dr. Joseph said.

So, on Feb. 29, use that extra day to spend time with friends and family, do something fun. While you’re at it, check something off your bucket list.