When is the next leap year? Date, how many days are in a leap year - and why we have them explained

According to Irish tradition, women can propose to their partners on a leap year

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The years seem to pass by quicker and quicker with each one that comes and goes, but all years do actually have the same amount of days and hours - with the exception of leap years.

The UK, along with most of the world, follows the Gregorian calendar which gives us 365 days a year - but every four years we gain an extra day.

These years are called leap years. But, just what are leap years, why do we have them, when is the extra day and what happens on leap years?

Here is everything you need to know.

An extra date is added to February every leap year.An extra date is added to February every leap year.
An extra date is added to February every leap year.

When is the next leap year?

The next leap year will be in 2024.

How many days are there in a leap year?

There are 366 days in a leap year, which is one day more than an average year which has 365 years.

The extra day will be added in February, so instead of the usual 28 days of February there will be 29 days in February 2024.

How often do leap years occur?

Leap years happen every four years.

This means that the last leap year was in 2020, and after 2024 the next leap year will be 2028.

The next three leaps years after that will be in 2032, 2036 and 2040.

Why do we have leap years?

Leap days occur so that our calendar is kept in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the Sun.

It takes the Earth approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds – to circle once around the Sun.

This is slightly more than the 365 days that we have every year, and so every four years an extra day needs to be added to account for these extra hours. This is because the additional hours add up to an extra day after four years.

Without an extra day every four years, we would lose almost six hours every year.

This may not sound like a lot, but the implications would be bigger in the longer term. After only 100 years, for example, a calendar without leap years would be off by approximately 24 days.

This means that seasonal days such as the autumn equinox and winter solstice would, therefore, shift in relation to the months in the calendar.

For example, in 100 years, the Northern Hemisphere’s autumnal equinox, which falls in late September, would fall in late August, and in a few centuries, August would become a spring month.

What happens on a leap year?

Most people’s day-to-day lives are not affected by the leap year.

People who were born on a leap year, who are known as leapers or leaplings, have the opportunity to celebrate their actual birthdate when 29 February happens.

Every other year, people who were born on February 29 have to mark their birthday on either 28 February or 1 March.

According to an Irish tradition known as Bachelor’s Day, women are allowed to propose on 29 February.

This tradition once had legal basis in Scotland and England, but in modern day women can propose to their partners when they like - although many do still observe the tradition.