February 29: why does this special date exist in our calendar?

Published by Cécile de Sortiraparis · Photos by Cécile de Sortiraparis · Published on February 29th, 2024 at 11:34 a.m.
The year 2024 is a leap year, meaning that the month of February has 29 days instead of 28. Where does this particularity of the calendar come from?

1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024... All these years have one thing in common: they are leap years! This means they have 366 days instead of the usual 365. There's just one extra day at the end of February. So, every four years, we find ourselves back on that special February 29.

But why is this day added to our calendar? The answer lies inastronomy: our Earth revolves around the sun in 365,242,199 days. An impractical number for our earthbound habits, which we have simplified to 365 days. The result was an increasingly glaring time difference between the terrestrial calendar and the natural cycle. To compensate for this discrepancy and set the clocks back to zero, an extra day is added to our calendar every four years.

France, like the vast majority of other countries, uses the Gregorian calendar, divided into 12 months of 30, 31 and 28 (or even 29) days. This system is based on the solar calendar (as opposed to lunar calendars). The Gregorian calendar is the international legal standard, but some countries have chosen to use their own calendar, in addition to or instead of this system. Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Nepal and Vietnam follow a different rhythm.

One last special feature: leap years are subject to two special rules. A February 29th is added only to years divisible by 4, and not divisible by 100, and to years divisible by 400. Thus, the year 2000 was a leap year, unlike the years 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, 1989...

Is February 29 a special date then? Yes... And no. It's a unique day, occurring only once every four years. However, no supernatural or magical events occur on February 29. So there's no need to expect anything exceptional... Unless you choose to try one of our unusual outings on this day! On February 29, 2024, take a moment to enjoy this unique day: the next one won't happen until 2028.

Practical information

Dates and Opening Time
On February 29th, 2024

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