What Is Leap Day? Feb. 29 Only Comes Around Once Every Four Years, So You Better Make The Most Of It

For those of you (me) who have ever wished out loud that you had more time to tackle life's huge to-do list, I have news — you do. Well, sort of. If you've been paying attention to your calendar, you've likely noticed that 2016 is a leap year, and that Feb. 29 is Leap Day. But what is Leap Day, exactly, and why does the extra calendar day only pop up every couple of years? Time is a funny thing that I can't pretend to fully understand, but at least when it comes to Leap Day, I have a few answers.

For one thing, did you know that Leap Day is a celebration of love? That's right — just when you thought you had put all the traumatically mushy sentiments of Valentine's Day behind you, February offers up an extra day of romance. Custom has it that on Leap Day, women are supposed to propose to men, instead of the other way around (if you haven't watched the 2010 movie Leap Year starring Amy Adams, now would be an appropriate time.)

But in case you're more interested in actual science than folklore (and the subsequent predictable story lines of rom-coms gleaned from outdated tradition), here's what you really need to know about Leap Day.

Why do leap years happen in the first place?

If you were a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and your million dollar question was "how many days does it take the Earth to travel around the sun?" you'd probably feel confident answering "365." In this case, however, you'd be better off phoning a friend. The fact is, it actually takes the Earth 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds to make a full trek around the sun. If we didn't add an extra day onto the calendar every four years to account for that extra time, the seasons would be off by 24 days in just 100 years. Not ideal. Not ideal at all.

Julius Caesar is the person responsible for Leap Day

The Roman general obviously has a lasting legacy, but one of this actions continues to affect us today — Leap Day. Caesar is credited with introducing Leap Day more than 2,000 years ago, adding it to the Julian calendar so that it fell on Feb. 24 once every four years. Pope Gregory XIII later included it on the Gregorian calendar in 1582.

When is Leap Day?

In modern times, Leap Day falls on Feb. 29 once every four years. The last Leap Day was in 2012. The next will be in 2020. As a general rule, Leap Day falls on years that are divisible by four, though that's not always the case with century years (for instance, 1800).

How should I celebrate?

However the heck you want! You have a whole extra calendar date to use as you please — whether that means catching up with old friends you've been meaning to get back in touch with for eons, finally tackling work you've been putting off because you haven't had time (I see you, taxes), or simply enjoying an extra day by yourself, Leap Day is yours to be relished. Just make sure you take advantage of it — this calendar idiosyncrasy won't be around for another four years.

Images: Spyglass Entertainment; Giphy