Leap Year – How did we manage to score an extra day?

Here we are! February 29, 2020.  An extra day added to our 365-day year. Leap years occur every 4 years.  The 365-day year doesn’t align with the true year, as defined by how long it

Here we are! February 29, 2020.  An extra day added to our 365-day year. Leap years occur every 4 years.  The 365-day year doesn’t align with the true year, as defined by how long it takes the Earth to complete one orbit around the sun. To be precise, the solar year is a messy 365.2422 days Because of this, and the need to sync calendars with mother nature, adjustments must be made.  Thus, leap year.


Does it really make a difference? Scientists say so.  The lag of a 0.2422 day might seem insignificant, but it adds up over time. If all years were 365-day years, the calendar would continue to gradually get off track relative to the seasons. In three centuries, January 1 would come in autumn and after six centuries, it would fall in summer.


Here’s a great short video that explains more of the science behind leap year.  This is less than 3 minutes long and a great way to explain to kids – or those of us who aren’t scientists – in very simple terms and with cool visuals.



It would be great if things literally were THAT simple – add a day every four years – but there is a little bit more to it and there is a catch, since sometimes it isn’t always every fourth year.  The Farmer’s Almanac shares these rules:


  • A year may be a leap year if it is evenly divisible by 4.
  • 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.


Do you know anyone born on a leap year?    If so, then you know what is called a “leapling,” “leaper,” or “leapster” who was born under the sign of Pisces. Some prefer to call themselves “leap babies.”  For those who follow horoscopes, those bon on leap days are more apt to go their own way, exhibit an independent streak and optimistic spirit. In the usual 365-day year, the chance of being born on any given day is 1 in 365. For leap babies, it’s four times that, plus an extra day, which equates to 1 in 1,461.  Leap babies are indeed special!   Because their actual birthdays occur once every four year, they must decide when to celebrate on those non-leap years.  February 28th or March 1st? Or wait and celebrate every four years on February 29th? Decisions, decisions!


Wondering when the next leap years occur?  Farmer’s Almanac did the math.


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


So now you know more about the science behind leap year, the “rules” to determine when a year is going to be a leap year, and when the next one will be.  Go out and enjoy your extra day!


Feature image from Getty Images.



Chiff. http://www.chiff.com/a/leap-year.htm.   Accessed 2/28/2020.

Farmer’s Alamanac. https://www.almanac.com/content/when-next-leap-year. Accessed 2/28/2020.

Life Noggin. Why Do We Have Leap Years? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2FiIEVQVPc#action=share/.  Accessed 2/28/2020.

NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/what-leap-year-ncna972131.  Accessed 2/28/2020.

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