Happy Birthday, Leapers! It only comes around once every four years for them, thanks to the needs of our Gregorian calendar, but it’s here again because it’s 29 February. This is a leaper’s day of joy, their real birthday, but being a “leap baby” can be as problematic as it is exciting.
People born on the extra day added to a leap or intercalary year – happening every four years to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical one – call themselves “leapers”. Some of them make a big deal when it comes to the magic date of 29 February and have different traditions and superstitions. One such leaper celebrating today is mother-of-three Zoe O’Sullivan.
“It makes me feel unique to be born on this day and extra special, people act like I’m famous,” laughs Zoe, from the West Midlands, England. “I turned 28 today, though it is only my 7th real birthday. I feel lucky, I appreciate my birthday so much more because I have to wait every 4 years. I actually don’t know any other leap baby in my area, just stories that I see in magazines and on the Internet.”
“I try and do something different each leap year, like having a leap year t-shirt done, badges that say my leap year age – it keeps me forever young, I love how it confuses people,” says Zoe.
However, having such a unique birth date on your ID also has a downside with misunderstandings and extra paperwork. Statistics experts calculate that less than 0.07% of all people are born on a leap day, which for the current world’s population means about 4.8 million “leap babies” are celebrating their birthdays today. Despite there being such a number of people, many administrations, companies and websites seem to forget them when setting up application forms or identity checks.
“I usually have trouble booking and buying online because it says my birth date doesn’t exist, so I either have to call up the companies and explain that my birthday is on the 29th, or get a family member to do it for me on my behalf,” explains Zoe. “I also had trouble getting served on nights out because they say my birth date on my passport doesn’t exist,” she adds.
Apart from practical problems, there are also emotional ones. Some leapers genuinely miss the common experience of a set annual birthday. For many it is ‘cool’, and for some it is even unlucky. Zafea Shaira Abala, a student from Cebu in the Philippines, turns 2o today but is celebrating her 5th ‘official’ birthday.
“Well, I feel so special this year, but I feel quite unlucky the years that there is not a 29th, because people tend to forget my birthday,” she confesses. “When I was in junior school I was bullied by my classmates because I didn’t have a birthday as I am a leap baby,” remembers Zafea sadly. This has left her indifferent about when to celebrate it – on 28 February or 1 March.
In light of these possible consequences, there are even organisations like the Honour Society of Leap Year Day Babies in the USA to raise awareness and advocate for those affected by such timeless troubles.