Along with a major election this year, to many people the big news is that 2016 is also delivering a leap year. That’s right, go ahead and schedule your appointments for that elusive 29th day of February; it’s really happening. Statistically, there are nearly 5 million people on the planet who were born on February 29th, and about 200,000 of those reside in the United States. The odds of being born on Feb. 29 are approximately 1 in 1461 so you may not know anyone born on this day. And if that is the case, allow me to introduce myself as a member of the leap year baby class of 1968, celebrating birthday number 12 on the 29th.
Leap year is one of those phenomena whose importance escapes most people. It’s kind of like Daylight Saving Time, but maybe a little less bothersome and somewhat more important. The need for a leap year accounts for the actual 365.2422 days it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun, as opposed to the 365-days-a-year calendar that we use. So every four years, tacking an extra day onto the end of February makes up for the difference.
When do people with this strange birthday celebrate? Well, easy enough, it’s either on the 28th of February or the 1st of March, or both, if you’re really milking it. When I was a kid, I longed for a “real” birthday that wasn’t odd. It was also a little offensive when teachers or adults would say, “Are you sure that’s your birthday, dear? Because that’s not a real day.” Yes, I was sure of my birthday from the start. Having a Feb. 29th birthday really threw my husband off, who was almost like, “what do you mean you don’t have a real birthday, and how will I know when to celebrate?” Like he was in trouble or something for not celebrating on the 29th when there may have not been a 29th. Thankfully, he turned out to be a lot better under pressure than when handling my birthday. And for a blissful 16 years, I found myself without having to get a replacement driver’s license all due to the confusion of the Department of Motor Vehicles. So when I finally went in to get it renewed, 16 years later, the attendant was so amused she had to bring the other employees over to check it out and have a chuckle over the whole thing. I’m sure the people left in line loved it. That perhaps was the best perk I’ve experienced as a leap year baby. And probably the nicest and also improbable part of life as a leap year baby was that when I moved to a little town (graduated with 28-people-kind-of-small) and made a best friend, I discovered that she, too, was born on Feb 29th. Now, those are some strange odds.
In searching out special ways to memorialize my true birthday this year, I learned there is even an honorary society for LYB. (leap year babies, I just coined it.) I loved that they wanted members to list “their story.” I’m thinking, “Well, I was born on Feb. 29,” shows up a lot. I found out a local restaurant is celebrating with a leap year martini so I’m thinking that sounds interesting, even more so if it’s free for an actual LYB. Mostly, though, I’m going to enjoy the special efforts I know my husband is going to put into my special day. No pressure, honey, there’s always 2020. If you or someone you know is celebrating a leap year birthday, please leave a comment. Maybe we can start a LYB revolution!
Photos: Leap Day courtesy of Denise Krebs on Flickr, commercial use allowed
Leap Day 2012 courtesy of Dan Moyle on Flickr, commercial use allowed