When is the next Leap Year? Find out when the next Leap Day will be and how to calculate Leap Years! Plus, we’ll explain why we have Leap Years and some fun folklore.
What is a Leap Day?
A “Leap Day” is the extra day—February 29—which is added nearly every 4 years to today’s Gregorian calendar. The short explanation for this is that adding an extra day keeps our calendar aligned with the seasons. (Keep reading for the longer explanation!)
A “leapling” is a person born on a leap day. Any Leap Day babies out there? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
How Do You Know if it’s a Leap Year?
Here are the rules for leap years, just to set the record straight:
- A year is a leap year if it is divisible by 4, but century years are not leap years unless they are divisible by 400. (So, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but the year 2000 was.)
- Leap years have 366 days, rather than the usual 365.
- Non–leap years begin and end on the same day of the week.
When is The Next Leap Year?
|Year||Leap Year Day|
|2020||Saturday, February 29|
|2024||Thursday, February 29|
|2028||Tuesday, February 29|
Why Do We Need Leap Years?
Our Earth calendar needs to stay aligned with the seasons!
One orbit of Earth around the Sun takes 365.25 days—a little more than our Gregorian calendar’s nice, round number of 365. Because our regular calendar does not account for the extra quarter of a day that the Earth requires to complete its orbit around the Sun, it doesn’t totally align with the solar year.
Because of this .25 difference, our calendar gradually gets out of sync with the seasons. Adding an extra day, aka a “leap day,” to the calendar every 4 years brings the calendar in line and therefore realigns it with the seasons.
Without leap days, the calendar would be off by 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds more each year.
After 100 years, the seasons would be off by 25 days! Eventually the months we call February and March would be summer months in the Northern Hemisphere.
The extra leap day adjusts this drift.
But it’s not a perfect match: Adding a leap day every 4 years overcompensates by a few extra seconds each leap year, adding up to about 3 extra days every 10,000 years.
Leap Year Facts and Folklore
- Ages ago, Leap Day was known as “Ladies Day” or “Ladies’ Privilege,” as it was the one day when women were free to propose to men. Today, Sadie Hawkins Day sometimes applies to Feb 29 (leap day), based on this older tradition.
- According to folklore, in a leap year, the weather always changes on Friday.
- “Leap year was ne’er a good sheep year” (old proverb)
Are Leap Years Bad Luck?
Many feel that to be born on Leap Day, thereby becoming a “leapling,” is a sign of good luck.
In some cultures, it is considered bad luck to get married during a leap year.
We don’t know of any evidence supporting that marriage theory, but we do know that during leap years:
- Rome burned (64),
- and the Titanic sank (1912).
By the same token, also in leap years:
- the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts (1620),
- Benjamin Franklin proved that lightning is electricity (1752),
- and gold was discovered in California (1848).
Do you have any Leap Year memories? Are you a Leapling yourself? Please share in the comments below!