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What Would Happen if We Didn’t Have Leap Year? | Leap Year 2020 Explained

Tom Hartford, Senior Editor

February 28th, 2020

In case you’ve not heard, this year is a special year. It’s leap year 2020, and it’s here to make sure your calendar only gets goofy once every four years.


Have you ever wondered what would happen if we didn’t celebrate leap year? We investigated the topic and rounded up answers. Here is a bit about leap year 2020 and why it exists.


Why Do We Celebrate Leap Year?

First used in the fourteenth century, the term leap year indicates when a year will have 366 days instead of 365. While leap years aren’t necessarily cause for celebration and parties, the purpose of leap years is pretty great.

Once the civilized world adopted the Gregorian calendar, there was a tiny problem. It doesn’t take the earth 365 days to work its way around the sun. It takes 365 days and approximately eight hours. That’s 365.25 days. More specifically, that’s an average of 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds to circle once around the Sun. So all in all, leap year is in place to essentially make up for lost time.


Why is 2020 a Leap Year?

Though leap year was first uttered in English in the fourteenth century, it wasn’t instituted in its current form until 1582. (More on that later.) Basically, to determine what years are leap years, divide the year by four. If the answer is a nice, round number, it’s a leap year!
If comparing last year, 2019, with this year, 2020, you can see that 2020 is divisible by four, whereas 2019 leaves you with a remainder.
2019/4 =504.75
2020/4 = 505
But wait, it’s actually not that simple. In addition to being divisible by four rule, leap years have two other rules. Bet you didn’t know that, did you?
The other two rules are:

  1. A year can’t be a leap year if it’s divisible by 100…
  2. Unless it’s also divisible by 400. Then it is a leap year.

Weird, we know, but those are the rules.

When is the Next Leap Year?

Now that you know that 2020 is a leap year, you can pretty easily determine the next leap years coming your way. Simply add four to the year and you’ll get them. So 2024, 2028, 2032, 2036, and 2040 will all be leap years.
Want to know when the first leap year will be in the twenty-second century? If you think the new century starts in 2100, that is the first leap year of the next century. However, if you think the new century doesn’t start until 2101, the first leap year won’t hit for you until 2104.

Why Do We Celebrate Leap Year in February?

It’s strange, but there was a time when the calendar had just ten months. When they added the tenth month, there was such reluctance that they gave February (the last month added) the fewest days of any month. So, when the leap year idea came along, adding the extra day to the smallest month made sense more than making other months 32 or 31 days long. So, in the end, February became the recipient of an extra day every four years.

What Would Happen If We Didn’t Have Leap Year?

Folks living during the sixteenth century found out what would happen without leap year. Whereas the vernal equinox should take place on March 21, the lack of leap years resulted in the loss of eleven days through the years. This meant that the event actually fell on March 11.

That’s when Pope Gregory XII stepped in. He set the calendar ahead by eleven days and established leap year to ensure that every four years, an extra day would be added to ensure such a mistake didn’t happen again.

So, if it weren’t for leap year, any event that is based on the sun and takes place on a certain date would not do so.

More About Leap Day

Have an itch for more leap year-related info? Check out these fun facts:

Leap Day Fact #1

Approximately 4 million people across the globe were born on leap day.

Leap Day Fact #2

While helpful, leap year isn’t exact. However, leap year ensures it takes more than 3,000 years to gain a single day, compared to the previous system, which made a one-day error every four years.

Leap Day Fact #3

Julius Caesar actually created leap year before the modern era (BCE) began. However, his leap year method was faulty. He added one day every four years and didn’t have any other rules. This meant too many leap years for those using the Julian calendar.


Leap Year Superstitions

You may not know this, but some consider February 29 the one day every four years that a woman can ask a man to marry her. Funny as this is, the joke doesn’t end there. In Denmark, if a man refuses such a proposal, he has to buy her a dozen pairs of gloves. One for each month, perhaps?

How is this a Leap Year Superstition?

It’s not really. But it does connect to a leap year superstition in Greece and Italy that says getting married during a leap year is bad news. Want to really push your bad luck to the limits? Get married on leap day, February 29.


Want More Leap Year Folklore?

In Russia, leap years are dreaded for their supposed connection to bizarre weather and increased likelihood of death. Russia isn’t alone in fearing leap years. Folks in Taiwan also have a superstition that leap years put people at higher risk for death.


Now that you know all you need to know about leap year, make the most of the extra day in 2020 and go do something great.

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