OUR calendars have an extra day in February every four years.
This is known as a leap year – but what are they and what if you’re unlucky enough to be born of February 29? Here’s the lowdown…
What is a leap year?
A leap year is a calendar year which is an extra day longer.
It’s a corrective measure, to keep our calendar year synchronised with the astronomical or seasonal year.
Because astronomical events and seasons don’t correlate to an exact amount of days, a drift occurs which needs to be corrected from time-to-time.
The leap day has always been a time for traditions.
According to old Irish legend, St Brigid struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men on February 29.
Even today, women continue the tradition of popping the question to their partners on February 29.
Leap day is also St Oswald’s Day, named after the Archbishop of York who died on February 29, 992.
Where does the term 'leap year' come from?
The name ‘leap year’ comes from the fact that a fixed date on a Gregorian calendar normally advances one day of the week each year.
Apart from in a leap year, when it skips a day – leaping over one day of the week.
For example, Christmas Day fell on a Wednesday in 2013, Thursday in 2014, and Friday in 2015 but then ‘leapt’ over Saturday to fall on a Sunday in 2016.
How many days are there in February?
In a normal year, there are 28 days in February – while leap years are extended to 29.
And a year is normally 365 days long, making a leap year 366 days.
When is the next leap year?
The last leap day fell on February 29 2016, and the next leap year is in 2020.
2016 also had a leap second just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, to make sure our calendars remain accurate.
more on holidays and festivals
What happens if you are born on February 29?
In many ways, being born on a leap day is not different to any other day.
Your birthday will be listed as February 29, but most leap day babies will celebrate on February 28 or March 1 in normal years.
Some leap day babies joke about only having celebrated 20 birthdays, despite being 80 years old.
People born on February 29 are normally invited to join The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies.
In Scotland, it was traditionally considered unlucky for someone to be born on leap day – just as Friday 13th is considered unlucky by some.
While Greeks consider it a bad omen for couples to get married in a leap year, and especially on February 29 itself.
Have you ever wondered why Easter changed every year? Here’s the lowdown on why it changes, and where to mark your calendar this year.
Are you look forward to the warmer weather? Here’s when Spring officially starts… and how we decide when the clocks go back.
And we explain everything you need to know about Chinese New Year, and when to expect the next celebrations this year.