Why Is 2020 a Leap Year?

Learn How Leap Years Keep Our Calendar Accurate

February 4, 2020
29 Leap Year Fence

2020 is a leap year! Find out why and what this means, and see when the next leap year will be. Plus, we’ll explain why leap years are necessary and share the fun folklore surrounding them. 

What Is a Leap Year?

Simply put, a leap year is a year with an extra day—February 29—which is added nearly every four years to the calendar year.

Why Are Leap Years Necessary?

Adding an extra day every four years keeps our calendar aligned correctly with the astronomical seasons, since a year according to the Gregorian calendar (365 days) and a year according to Earth’s orbit around the Sun (approximately 365.25 days) are not the exact same length of time. Without this extra day, our calendar and the seasons would gradually get out of sync. (Keep reading for a longer explanation.) 

Because of this extra day, a leap year has 366 days instead of 365. Additionally, a leap year does not end and begin on the same day of the week, as a non–leap year does.

How Do You Know If It’s a Leap Year?

Generally, a leap year happens every four years, which, thankfully, is a fairly simple pattern to remember. However, there is a little more to it than that.

Here are the rules of leap years:

  1. A year may be a leap year if it is evenly divisible by 4.
  2. Years that are divisible by 100 (century years such as 1900 or 2000) cannot be leap years unless they are also divisible by 400. (For this reason, the years 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but the years 1600 and 2000 were.)

If a year satisfies both the rules above, then it is a leap year. 

Why Is 2020 a Leap Year?

2020 happens to follow the rules of leap years:

  • 2020 divided by 4 equals 505 with no remainder.
  • 2020 is not a century year, so it does not need to be divisible by 100 or 400.

Therefore, 2020 abides by the rules of leap years and will have an extra day added to it: Saturday, February 29.

When Is the Next Leap Year?

Year Leap Day
2020 Saturday, February 29
2024 Thursday, February 29
2028 Tuesday, February 29
2032 Sunday, February 29

Why Do We Need Leap Years?

The short explanation for why we need leap years is that our calendar needs to stay aligned with the astronomical seasons.

One orbit of Earth around the Sun takes approximately 365.25 days—a little more than our Gregorian calendar’s nice, round number of 365. Because the 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 completely 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 feel like 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 four years overcompensates by a few extra seconds each leap year, adding up to about three extra days every 10,000 years. 

What Is a Leap Day? And a Leapling?

A “leap day” is the extra day in the leap year: February 29.

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!

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!


The Old Farmer's Almanac


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Leap Year Baby

Hi leapling, Happy sweet 16! And how fun to think you’re four-years-old.  Maybe have a party and include some four-year-old fun like blowing bubbles! :-)

No, honey

You're a leapling, not a Leap Year Baby.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, that was a giant leap year.

...but not a real leap year.

...but not a real leap year.

My son was born 2/29/88 what

My son was born 2/29/88 what a beautiful day that was he's 7 in leap years but today he turn 28yrs old

leap dày

My first grand daughter was born on leap day 2012! She such a blessing and so smart.

A Great Marriage!

We were married on February 29, 2004. The minister who married us asked my husband how often we would celebrate our anniversary since it was on Leap Day...every four years? No, my husband responded. We will celebrate EVERYDAY... and we have. Looking forward to year 12 next Monday (or is that three ???)


Marriage on Feb 29 2016 3:30 in Santa Ana, California Court House
MAILE Pisces Monkey "(Laos)"
GEORGE Pisces Serpent "(Mex/Amer)"

I proposed to my husband and

I proposed to my husband and we were married on Feb 29,08 at 7:49pm. (We only celebrate our anniversary on the actual day.) Our 1st anniversary we our daughter decided she wanted to grace us on Feb 29, 2012 at 8:07am 2months premature. Our little leapling will celebrate her "1st" 4th birthday this year!!

leap year babies

I was born on the 29 and so was my younger brother

Leap Year

I was born Feb. 29, 1972.. I will be 44 this year and 11 in leap years..

Me too nice to meet you

Me too nice to meet you

I'm a leap year baby. I was

I'm a leap year baby. I was born Feb. 29,1964.

Leap year

These are great facts to know

Is it time to make a change?

Is it time to make a change? One would think it should be time for any other calendar change. Why, well think it seems as though we are are a month behind the physical seasons change. When august began at times the temp dropped and everyone said well say good bye to summer. That used to take place in September.

When was the first leap year?

When was the first leap year?

Methods to synchronize

The Editors's picture

Methods to synchronize various calendars with astronomical events have been used for thousands of years. But for the present-day leap year rule for the Gregorian calendar, it started for Britain and its colonies (including America) back in 1752, when the country switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian. Other countries that had used the Julian calendar made the switch earlier, some as far back as 1582, when the Gregorian calendar had first been introduced. (It was named for Pope Gregory XIII, who was involved in reforming the Julian calendar).
It is interesting to note that in the American colonies prior to 1752, New Year's Day for civil purposes was celebrated on March 25 (Lady Day, or Annunciation). So, for example, March 24, 1701, would be followed by March 25, 1702. February was the twelfth month of the year.

An Act of Parliament in 1751 in Great Britain (which applied to the American colonies as well) adopted the Gregorian calendar effective 1752, and also proclaimed January 1 as the beginning of the calendar year (thereby making February the second month). This meant that 1751 was a short year, starting March 25 and ending December 31--there were no January and February in 1751 for Britain and its colonies (but this wasn't the case in other countries already using the Gregorian calendar). January 1, 1752, started the new year, which ended on December 31, 1752.

The Act also stated that, in order to catch up to the actual time (the Julian calendar that they had been using was 11 days ahead at the time to Earth's actual orbit), September 2, 1752, would be followed by September 14, 1752. (Eleven days were dropped for that year.)
Starting in 1752, the leap year rules for the Gregorian calendar applied to Britain and its colonies. For those countries that had adopted the Gregorian calendar earlier, the first leap year in the modern sense also occurred earlier.
The Julian calendar also has leap years, but it follows a different set of rules, adding a leap day every four years.

To be honest nobody knows for

To be honest nobody knows for sure when the first leap year was although there is a theory that it was in 1752. Hope this answered your question GOODBYE

Leap year


Leap year

It was 2000

Year 4 XD

Year 4 XD

Leap Years

On the 4th year god said let there be leap

I have a related question

I have a related question about the 400 rule. I recently (last night) got in to a bit of a discussion about leap years and said that only those centuries which are divisible by 400 are leap years (Leap Centuries) but those not divisible are not leap years. But I added: That year zero (Year X(ex) was not a leap year because zero is not divisible by 400. I was immediately asked what I meant by year zero (X). I said, I meant “the year when Christ (Χριστός) was born”. The year preceding 1 AD. I knew when asking that some of my friends have said that year zero doesn't exist. So that was partly why I had been considering it. Then yesterday I was discussing when leap years occur and how some are and some aren't according to the 400 year rule. So the years 2400AD, 2000AD, 1600AD, 1200AD, 800AD, 400AD will be or were leap years and 400BC and 800BC would have been if the rule existed during those times. Logically year Zero between 400AD and 400BC would follow that general mathematical sequence and so at first I thought that therefore obviously the year of the birth of Christ (Χριστός) would have been a leap year. (I also was aware some people say he was born 2BC, but that did not come in to it, because it was a question of mathematics, Leap years and the leap year rule (hypothetical, if he had been)). So I was at first happy to believe the year of his birth (Year zero) was in deed a leap year. About thirty minutes later I was applying the 400 rule when suddenly I realised that zero (naught) is not divisible by 400. So there fore it is an exception to the 400 rule. So 12BC, 8BC, 4BC, 4AD, 8AD and 12AD were leap years but year Zero was not as Zero was not divisible by 400. But then my friend (Amazing mathematical Abilities (Teaches mathematics) said that Zero was divisible by 400. He briefly and swiftly explained an example ( something about vectors) an explanation which was too brief and swift for me who by then was experiencing difficulties with what he had just said. So he seemed to contradict my basic understanding that nothing divided by anything is nothing.
I respect his abilities at maths as I know they are far greater than mine in many ways. But I was still interested to know if I was wrong or my basic education was wrong and so therefore fore he was right. I started a bit of research and found some sites would side with 0/x=0 where as some of the other more advanced sites seemed to make different statements about various branches of mathematics which all seemed above my abilities as I have not the time for an in-depth study of those higher aspects. I became more focused on the concept of 0/x=0 or undefined, pertaining to the impossibility of the concept and so mathematicians had left it undefined as a suitable definition. That seemed to suit my purpose of the mathematics. It left me still with the basic concept that zero divided by any number equals zero. So my friend could also be right as it is right for some maths and for other maths 0/x=0 is considered correct. But he was really saying that for the purpose of leap years, “year-zero” would be a leap year contrary to my mathematical belief that zero is not divisible by 400.
So I am still uncertain which way to decide. So I decided to ask others for their views. I realise some may say there is no year zero so the question is unrealistic. I would accept that as a realistic and valid answer as I am also yet undecided if there was a year zero or not for the purpose of some calculations. But for other situations I am sure there is a year zero. Or there is a year before the birth of Christ. (Well maybe there is, (Just depends how far a person wants to go or something).
So that is the question pertaining to leap years and the rule of dividing by 400. Is year zero (which I call year “X” some times) divisible by 400? Was that millennial year a leap year like the year 2000AD and 2000BC (but not 1000AD or 1000BC)? So sequentially leap years were: -20BC, -16BC, -12BC, -8BC, -4BC, 0?, +4AD, +8BAD, +12AC. +16AD, +20AD...ETC. ETC.? (AD could be replaced by CE (Christian Era or Common Era))? Thank you.

There was no year 0. The

There was no year 0. The year before 1 was year -1.

Zero divided by a number.


By definition: divisible means an integer is capable of being divided by another integer without a fractional remainder.

or you can think of it as being able to divide a number into equal "whole" parts with no remainder.

The number "zero" can be divided by "any number" into equal parts of "zero". The only exclusion is you cannot divide zero by itself. That is undefined.

So the answer to "zero" divided by 400 is "zero" with no remainder and therefore "zero" is divisible by 400.


I apologize in advance for

I apologize in advance for any ambiguity.

"With this rule, 97 leap days are added every 400 years, which means the average length of year in the Gregorian calendar is 365.2425 days."

If the rule off 400 is applied to centuries, would that not leave 96 leap years in a 400 year period instead of 97?

e.g. 100/4 = 25

However, since 100 isn't divisible by 400 creating a whole number, wouldn't we say 24 leap days happen over a 100 year span?

e.g. 24 x 4 Centuries = 96 Leap Days over a 400 year period?

I think I see where you have

I think I see where you have miss calculated.
So if we use the divisible by 400 rule we have one century in 4 being a leap year where as the other three are not. So the year 1600 would have been a leap year and 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not.
So there are 25 leap years in every century which starts with a leap year (EG 1600, 2000, 2400)and only 24 leap years in the century's which are not divisible by 400. So 3 times 24 + (1 Times 25) equals 97. I think you just forgot to add the leap year for the century beginning with a leap year. so you went for, “times 25” instead of “3 times 25 plus 1 times 24”.

In twenty centuries such as between the years 2000 and 4000 there would be only 5 Centuries which begin on a Leap year.

Hold on what u mean by

Hold on what u mean by something divisible by 400?

My cousin is 15 but really

My cousin is 15 but really 3years old

Hi, who came up with the idea

Hi, who came up with the idea of Leap Year, and that it should be in February and no other month like July? I understand that there are different days in each months are, 31, 28/29, 31, 30, 31, 30, 31, 31, 30, 31, 30, 31 days/month. Instead of a leap year, the days in August could be 31, then the series goes on......