Leap Day, a quadrennial* calendar event, brings an extra day to our lives every four years (February 29th.) This phenomenon, deeply rooted in our pursuit to synchronize the calendar year with the astronomical year, holds particular significance in 2024. In Amarillo, Texas, this extra day is not just a date on the calendar; it’s an opportunity for learning, celebration, and community engagement.

*The term “quadrennial” refers to something that occurs every four years or lasts for four years.

Why Do We Have Leap Years?

The concept of a leap year dates back to the time of Julius Caesar in 45 BCE. The Julian calendar introduced the idea of adding an extra day every four years to account for the fact that the Earth takes approximately 365.25 days to complete its orbit around the Sun. Without this adjustment, we would lose almost six hours every year, leading to significant drift over time.

However, the Julian calendar was not perfect. The actual solar year is slightly less than 365.25 days – about 11 minutes shorter. This discrepancy led to the gradual shift of seasons over centuries. By the 16th century, this shift had become significant enough to prompt a calendar reform.

The Gregorian Calendar: A Refined Approach

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar, which we use today. This new system fine-tuned the leap year concept by adding a crucial twist: a year that is evenly divisible by 100 would not be a leap year unless it is also divisible by 400. This rule helps correct the overcompensation of the Julian calendar by excluding three leap days every 400 years, bringing the calendar in closer alignment with the Earth’s orbit.

Learn more about the math here!

Leap Day 2024: Celebrate in Amarillo, Texas!

Join the Don Harrington Discovery Center in Amarillo, Texas, for a day of leap day programming. This special programming includes a day full of activities, crafts, and demos for all ages to enjoy. You’ll be “hoppy” you stopped by and discovered something new! 🐸

Included in regular admission or DHDC membership. No reservations or tickets are required.

Leap Day Graphic