When Is the Next Leap Year? Leap Year Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Updated: Feb. 29, 2024

When is the next leap year? Here are some fascinating leap year facts, along with all the details about why leap day is Feb. 29.

New Year’s isn’t the only reason to celebrate a new calendar year. In fact, there’s an unofficial holiday you should know: leap day (and leap year!). But why do we have leap years, anyway?

One solar year (that is, the amount of time it takes our planet to accomplish one full rotation about the sun) takes roughly 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. That extra five-plus hours nobody likes to talk about are precisely why we have leap years. The 366-day years that occur every four years sometimes include encouraging women to propose to men, while also making celebrating birthdays very confusing for 1/1,461th of the population.

But when is the next leap year, and is leap year coming up again in 2024? Here’s everything to know, along with nine reasons leap day is an unofficial holiday that are worth knowing.

Get Reader’s Digest’s Read Up newsletter for more holidays, humor, cleaning, travel, tech and fun facts all week long.

What is a leap year?

Old engraved illustration of Astronomy - the Seasons (Northern Hemisphere)mikroman6/Getty Images

A leap year is a calendar year that has an extra day, compared with our common year. The point of leap years is to help adjust our Gregorian calendar (aka, the 365-day calendar you can find on your desk or phone) to the solar calendar, and make sure we celebrate solar events like the spring and autumn equinoxes with some regularity every year. But why is Feb. 29 called leap day? Well, because Feb. 29 is our extra day!

When is the next leap year?

Is 2024 a leap year? Yes, the next leap day will be Feb. 29, 2024. When is the next leap year after that? It will be in 2028, followed by 2032 and 2036.

1. Is a leap year really every four years?

Yes, unless it isn’t. Even adding an extra day to February every four years doesn’t quite do the trick, which is why scientists sometimes call for a leap second, like they did in 2015 on June 30 at 11:59:60 pm.

How do you remember if it’s a leap year? Simple: If the last two digits of the year are divisible by four (for example, 2016, 2020, 2024 …) then it’s a leap year. Century years are the exception to this rule. They must be divisible by 400 to be leap years—so, 2000 and 2400 are leap years, but 2100 will not be one. As a bonus, U.S. leap years almost always coincide with election years.

2. What’s crazier than Feb. 29?

The bride and groom put the ring on the wedding ceremonyNatalia Kirsanova/Getty Images

A woman proposing to a man, says history. Consider adding this historical fact to your list of trivia questions: After Pope Gregory XIII instituted the Gregorian calendar, the idea of adding Feb. 29 every four years seemed so ridiculous that a British play joked it was a day when women should trade their dresses for “breeches” and act like men. The play was meant as satire, but some early feminists must have been inspired; by the 1700s, women were using leap day to propose to the men in their lives. The tradition—now called Bachelor’s Day or Sadie Hawkins Day—peaked in the early 1900s and continues today in the U.K., where some retailers even offer discount packages to women popping the question.

3. The Salem witch trials are connected to leap day

If we’re looking at history a bit closer to home, then we should focus on Massachusetts. The Salem witch trials weren’t a fun time in Colonial America, and there was a particularly negative connection with leap day. The first warrants for arrest in the Salem witch trials went out on Feb. 29, 1692.

4. It’s rare to be born on leap day … but what about dying on leap day?

Birthday cake with 17 number candle on blue backgraund set on fire by lighter. Close-upStanislav Shkoborev/Getty Images

According to the World Heritage Encyclopedia, in the 1800s, British-born James Milne Wilson, who later became the eighth premier of Tasmania, was born on a leap day and died on a leap day too! Wilson died on Feb. 29, 1880, on his “17th” birthday, or aged 68 in regular years.

5. What do Tony Robbins and Gioachino Rossini have in common?

They are both extremely successful in their respective fields—but more to the point, they were both born on Feb. 29. According to BBC, the odds of being born on Feb. 29 are 1 in 1,461, which makes it particularly rare for one leapling, as they are called, to meet another.

Rarer still is the possibility that three children in the same family would be born on three consecutive leap days, but that’s exactly what happened with the Henriksen family of Norway. Heidi Henriksen was born on Feb. 29, 1960, her brother Olav four years later, on Feb. 29, 1964, and baby Leif-Martin four years after that, on Feb, 29, 1968. According to many government agencies, the siblings would not legally be considered a year older until March 1 on non-leap years. In 2024, we could officially say “Happy Actual Birthday, leaplings!”

6. Only Swedes and Hobbits celebrate Feb. 30

New Line Cinema's "Lord Of The Rings" Gets 13 Oscar NominationsNew Line/Getty Images

Feb. 30? This even rarer date occurred in Sweden and Finland in 1712, when they added an extra leap day to February to help catch up their outdated Julian calendar with the new Gregorian calendar. There is, however, one race of people who celebrate Feb. 30 every year: Hobbits. The wee folk of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings universe observe 12 extra long 30-day months every year—including Solmath (translated in the text to February).

7. There is an official leap day cocktail

And it’s called … the Leap Day Cocktail! This colorful cousin of the martini was invented by pioneering bartender Harry Craddock at London’s Savoy Hotel in 1928. According to the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, “It is said to have been responsible for more proposals than any other cocktail ever mixed.” Whether or not you’re in the market for a freshly soused spouse, you can make your own leap day cocktail with Craddock’s original recipe:

1 dash lemon juice
2/3 gin
1/6 Grand Marnier
1/6 sweet vermouth

Shake, serve, garnish with a lemon peel and enjoy the flood of bittersweet flavors. It’s like a marriage in your mouth!

8. Celebrate leap day with travel deals and a rare French magazine


How does one celebrate a holiday that’s not really a holiday? By shopping, obviously. Many businesses observe the rarity of leap day by offering massive deals. Take a minute to check in with any restaurants, hotels or cruise lines you’ve been curious about; chances are, they have a promotion running. And if your travels take you to France, pick up a copy of the rare La Bougie du Sapeur, a French parody newspaper only published once every four years, on leap day. Newsstand copies sell for 4.80 euros per issue, but generous investors can buy a lifetime subscription.

9. Is Feb. 29 good luck or bad luck?

Depends who you ask! According to an old Scottish aphorism, “leap year was ne’er a good sheep year.” The superstition that leap days are particularly lucky or unlucky has been debated through history and across cultures, and there’s still no clear answer. For one thing, it’s bad luck if you’re a prisoner on a one-year sentence that spans a leap day. Also, bad news if you work on a fixed annual salary—no extra pay for that extra day. On the other hand, leap day is great luck if you pay a fixed monthly rent (one free day of living!), or if you’re Hattie McDaniel, in which case Feb. 29, 1940, was the day you became the first African American to win an Oscar, for your role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind.

Will Feb. 29, 2024, be lucky or unlucky? You’ll just have to live through it and see.


  • Time and Date: “How Long Is a Tropical Year / Solar Year?”
  • Mental Floss: “The Ladies’ Privilege: Encouraging Women to Propose on Leap Day”
  • Slate: “Get a Hustle On—It’s Leap Year”
  • History.com: “5 Things You May Not Know About Leap Day”
  • USA Today: “A few facts about leap day”
  • BBC: “Leap year: 10 things about 29 February”
  • Mental Floss: “8 Things That Happened on Leap Day”
  • Tolkien Gateway: “Shire Calendar”
  • NPR: “For Leap Day Only, a Rare Newspaper Goes to Print”
  • IMDb: “Hattie McDaniel”
  • Time and Date: “What Is a Leap Second?”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest