Why will February 2024 have 29 days? Understand what a leap year is

In 2024, the calendar has a peculiarity that happens every four years: it will be a leap year. This means that, unlike common years, which have 365 days, a leap year will have one more day, making a total of 366 days.

But why does this happen? Well, the Earth goes around the Sun approximately every 365.25 days. To adjust our calendar to Earth’s orbit, every four years we add an extra day to the month of February.

This additional day is known as leap day and it helps keep our dates aligned with the seasons.

If we didn’t make this adjustment, over the years, our seasons would start to go out of sync. Just imagine celebrating Christmas in the middle of summer or Carnival in the cold and rain!

So, leap year is a calendar correction, ensuring that our festivities and seasons continue to happen at the expected times.

How do you know if a given year is a leap year or not?

2024 will be a leap year, that is, February will have 29 days – Image: iStock/Getty Images/Reproduction

To know whether a year is a leap year or not, you can use a simple trick. If the year is divisible by 4, as is the case with 2024, it is a leap year.

However, there is an exception: years divisible by 100, but not by 400, are not leap years. For example, the year 1900 was divisible by 100 but not by 400, so it was not a leap year. The year 2000, as it is divisible by 400, was a leap year.

How did leap year come about?

The person responsible for this change was Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced the leap year as part of the reform known as the Gregorian Calendar.

At that time, the Julian calendar, established by Julius Caesar in 45 BC, was in use, but it had a small discrepancy with the solar year.

His calendar had a duration of 365.25 days, that is, a whole year, rounded to the simplest number.

This represented a slight excess over the actual solar year. Although this difference seemed small, over the centuries it resulted in an accumulation of extra days in the calendar.

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Thus, the Julian calendar began to advance in relation to the seasons.

To correct this inaccuracy and realign religious celebrations with the seasons, Pope Gregory XIII took the initiative to reform the calendar.

The main change proposed by the Pope was the introduction of a more precise method for calculating the leap year.

Following the recommendation of astronomer Luigi Lilio, the rule established was that years divisible by 4 would be leap years, with one exception: years divisible by 100, but not by 400, would not be leap years.

Why February?

The original Roman calendar had only ten months, totaling 304 days, and started in March. February was the last month of the year and had 28 days.

However, the Romans realized that the average lunar cycle is approximately 29.5 days, which did not align perfectly with a fixed-length 12-month calendar.

When Julio Cesar He reformed the calendar to create the Julian Calendar, he added two more months, January and February, to the year and adjusted the distribution of days in the months.

February originally had 28 days, but to keep the total close to the solar year, Julius Caesar decided that, in leap years, February should have an extra day, making the total 29 days.