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When is the Next Leap Year?

Most years, February has 28 days. But during “leap years,” the month extends to 29 days. The year 2020 is a leap year. Have you ever wondered why we have them? And 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 Have Leap Years?

The reason for the extra day during some years has to do with our need to keep our modern-day Gregorian Calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the Sun.  Unlike the calendar, which organizes each year into a neat 365 days, it actually takes the Earth 365.242199 days—or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds—to circle once around the Sun.  

Leap years, or intercalary years, as they are also called, date back to the reign of Roman emperor Julius Caesar, in 46 BC. At that time, Caesar, after a conversation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria, decreed that a calendar year would be 365 days in length, and contain 12 months. Prior to that, the Romans followed an evolving series of calendars that were roughly based on the Greek lunar calendar, with a total of 354 days, and a “leap month” thrown in every few years to even things out.

Days were added to various months to bring the total number up to 365. Because the seasons didn’t exactly fit the 365-day year, the calendar ended about one-quarter day early, resulting in the calendar becoming a full day off every fourth year. To make up for the error, the Julian calendar, as Caesar’s calendar came to be called, added an extra day to the month of February every fourth year. Any year evenly divisible by four would be a leap year, which made the average length of the calendar 365.25 days.


Leap Year traditions: should you propose?

However, the Julian calendar was still slightly off the mark. Caesar’s correction made the year 11 minutes and 14 seconds too long, which meant that, after 128 years, the calendar would end a full day later than the astronomical year. In 1582, Pope Gregory XII stepped in and ordered yet another correction to the calendar, resulting in the Gregorian calendar, which we use today. According to this reform, century years are not leap years, unless they are evenly divisible by 400. Thus, 1900 was not a leap year, but 2000 was. This made the average length of the calendar 365.244 days and reduced the calendar error to only one day in 3,322 years. During the 19th Century, astronomer John Herschel suggested dropping a leap year every 4000 years, to obtain even greater accuracy, however, his suggestion never received official support, in part because contemporary astronomers believe the point of the vernal equinox will change by the year 8000, making Herschel’s correction irrelevant.

List of Leap Years Past and Present

1600 1604 1608 1612 1616 1620 1624 1628 1632 1636 1640 1644 1648 1652 1656 1660 1664 1668 1672 1676 1680 1684 1688 1692 1696 1704 1708 1712 1716 1720 1724 1728 1732 1736 1740 1744 1748 1752 1756 1760 1764 1768 1772 1776 1780 1784 1788 1792 1796 1804 1808 1812 1816 1820 1824 1828 1832 1836 1840 1844 1848 1852 1856 1860 1864 1868 1872 1876 1880 1884 1888 1892 1896 1904 1908 1912 1916 1920 1924 1928 1932 1936 1940 1944 1948 1952 1956 1960 1964 1968 1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020 2024 2028 2032 2036 2040 2044 2048 2052 2056 2060 2064 2068 2072 2076 2080 2084 2088 2092 2096 2104 2108 2112 2116 2120 2124 2128 2132 2136 2140 2144 2148 2152

Why Do We Call It A “Leap” Year?

Common (non-leap) years are composed of exactly 52 weeks, plus one day. This extra day means that if your birthday falls on a Tuesday in one common year, it will fall on a Wednesday the next common year, and so on. However, a leap year changes this scenario. A leap year is comprised of 52 weeks plus two days. So, if your birthday fell on a Wednesday last year, in a leap year it “leaps” over Thursday and lands on Friday. Thus, the name “leap year.”

Should we do away with leap years?

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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