Ever wondered why February is shorter than all the other months? And what’s the story with the whole leap year thing? Well, we can attribute this calendar quirk to the Ancient Romans. Roman King Numa Pompilius established the basic Roman calendar, which previously only had 10 months.

However, most Romans were farmers, and used the 12 cycles of the 355 day lunar calendar to keep track of planting & harvesting. In order to sync the Roman & lunar calendars, Numa added two new months, January and February. Ancient Romans thought that even numbers were unlucky, so the king made seven of the calendar months 29 days long and four 31 days long. However, the calendar still didn’t add up to 355 days.  Numa decided to make February short, since it was already an disliked month because of its unpopular religious celebrations.

Years later, Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus rearranged the calendar further to its current 365 days, and introduced the February leap day, which added a day to February every 4 years.  Leap days are needed in order to keep the calendar year in sync  with the lunar calendar, which don’t repeat in a whole number of days. Without the addition of a leap year, a calendar that had the same number of days in each year would, over time, drift with respect to lunar & solar cycles.  A leap day every 4 years solves this problem.

A person born on February 29 may be called a “leapling” or a “leaper”.  Technically, a leapling will have fewer calendar years than their age in years. This phenomenon is exploited when a person claims to be only a quarter of their actual age, by counting their leap-year birthday anniversaries only, creating the situation where a 52 year old can officially claim it is their 13th birthday!

Here’s a handy chart to help you decode your leap year friend’s actual age:

Birth Year

Leap Years

Actual Age

Birth Year

Leap Years

Actual Age

1908

26

104

1960

13

52

1912

25

100

1964

12

48

1916

24

96

1968

11

44

1920

23

92

1972

10

40

1924

22

88

1976

9

36

1928

21

84

1980

8

32

1932

20

80

1984

7

28

1936

19

76

1988

6

24

1940

18

72

1992

5

20

1944

17

68

1996

4

16

1948

16

64

2000

3

12

1952

15

60

2004

2

8

1956

14

56

2008

1

4