Today is Leap Day, February 29—a day that comes around only once every four years. Different people celebrate Leap Day in different ways: Some take the day off work, others throw Leap Day-themed parties, while those who are lucky enough (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) to have been born on Leap Day get to celebrate their birthday for the first time in four years.
For Catholics, though, Leap Day raises one important question: Is Lent 41 days this year instead of 40?
This is no small concern—after all, adding one additional day to our Lenten fast makes it 2.5 percent longer! And since Ash Wednesday can fall anywhere between February 4 and March 10 (see When Is Ash Wednesday? and How Is the Date of Ash Wednesday Calculated?), Leap Day most often falls during Lent. How can the Church expect us to give up [chocolate|TV|Facebook|beer] for an extra day? What's a faithful (but, let's admit it, frail) Catholic to do?
Thankfully, Leap Day poses no problem for Catholics, even when it falls in the midst of Lent. Why? Because the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday is fixed. Ash Wednesday always falls 46 days before Easter (see How Is the Date of Ash Wednesday Calculated? and How Are the 40 Days of Lent Calculated?), and that's just as true in a Leap Year as in a normal year. Adding an extra day on the end of February changes nothing. (We'd have to add an extra day to a week, not to a month, to increase the gap between Ash Wednesday and Easter to 47 days.)
So there's no need to worry. If you've made it through your 40-day Lenten fast in previous years, you should have no problem making it through it this Leap Year. Or at least, no problem brought about by Leap Day. Now, that bar of chocolate in the cupboard is another matter . . .
How to Calculate the Dates of Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Easter:
- What Determines the Date of Ash Wednesday?
- How Is the Date of Ash Wednesday Calculated?
- How Are the 40 Days of Lent Calculated?
- How Is the Date of Easter Calculated?
- When Is Easter?