Close Icon

We already know that leap year occurs every four years, but did you know that the year is full of other interesting facts, traditions and myths?

Everybody knows that there is 365 days in a year. Except for a leap year, when instead of the usual 365 days, we have 366 days in our calendar. But do you know the reason why is it necessary to have a leap year, and all of the traditions and myths that come along with it?

Read on to discover leap year’s facts, traditions and myths…


Leap year facts

2020 leap year

Is 2020 a leap year?

2020 happens to be to be a leap year, as it follows the 4-year pattern.

The last leap year was in 2016, so 2020 follows the 4-year cycle, meaning that the extra day is added to the calendar on February 29th of this year.

Why do we have a leap year?

A leap day is the extra day that is added to the calendar to help synchronise with the Earth’s orbit around the sun. They are necessary to keep our calendar aligned with the astronomical seasons; without the extra day in February, our seasons and calendar would gradually get out of sync.

The sun’s orbit takes approximately 365.25 days which is a little more than our Georgian calendar’s round number of 365 days. The extra .25 creates the need for a leap year every four years, allowing the calendar to align with the solar year.

When did the leap year originate?

The origin for a leap year came from Julius Caesar, Father of Leap Year, in 45 BC.

Before this, Rome’s calendar had diverged from the seasons by some three months, due to their 355-day calendar. Julius Caesar adopted Egypt’s 365-day year and established the utility of a leap-year system to correct the calendar every four years.

Without the system that we know today, our calendar would be off by 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds more each year!

What are the chances of being born on a leap day?

People who are born of a leap day, or Leaplings as they’ve been coined, may be hard to come by.

This is because a birthday on February 29 is the least probable of all birthdays. The probability of being born on a leap day is 1/1461. We can work out this probability by counting the number of calendar days in a four-year cycle.

The sum of all of these would be 365+365+365+366 = 1461. Seeing as only one of these is a day leap day, the chances of being born on a leap day is 1/1461.

How many people are born on a leap day?

Despite it seemingly unlikely that many people would share a February 29th birthday, approximate 4.8 million people from across the globe claim a leap day birthday.


Leap Year traditions and myths

woman proposing on leap day

1. Women can propose to men on leap day

Ireland is full of weird and wonderful facts and traditions, but it is fair to say that this one is the most well-known.

29th of February 2020 is the opportunity for women to take matters into their own hands and pop the question. Women are of course capable of proposing at any time of the year, but this day has been reserved traditionally in Ireland for women to get down on one knee.

2. Leap Day is bad luck

Some cultures avoid getting married on a leap year as they are seen as bad luck. Italian proverbs warn women that leap years are likely to make them erratic and urge them to avoid making any big life decisions until the leap year has ended.

There is no evidence to support the marriage theory, however two major events occurred during leap years, which some consider a sign of bad luck. These leap year events include ancient Rome burning in 64 AD and the Titanic sinking in 1912.

3. The weather always changes on a Friday during a leap year

Folklore suggests that during a leap year, the weather always changes on a Friday.

Whilst Russians believe that leap years bring unpredictable weather patterns and Scottish farmers see them as bad for crops.


Do you have any of your own leap day traditions and myths? Or are you a Leaping? If so share your memories with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram! Or if you are looking to propose this leap year, take a look at our Ireland holiday cottages.

Get involved in the Discussion

Sign up to receive discounts, exclusive offers, travel tips and guides.