Every four years, we experience a leap year, which is a year that has 366 days instead of 365. The extra day is always Feb. 29. This means that anyone born on Feb. 29 has a very unusual birth date, as well as a dilemma, which is how to celebrate a birthday that doesn't occur every year.
We usually think of a year as being the time it takes for the earth to revolve completely around the sun once. This is not entirely true. It takes slightly longer than one year for the earth to revolve around the sun, exactly 365.242 days. However, the calendar that we currently use, the Gregorian calendar, is only 365 days long. This means that the calendar will become misaligned with the seasons over time without adjustment.
Different societies in the past have had different calendars and attempted to accommodate this discrepancy in the calendar by adding extra days or even months to correct the shift. Several societies were able to calculate the exact amount of discrepancy between a solar year and a calendar year, and the Egyptians were the first to add an extra day to the calendar every four years. Today's calendar uses this system and adds an extra day every four years on Feb. 29 to correct the difference between the solar and calendar year.
Leap Year Babies
Human babies are born on every day of the year, regardless of the calendar date. It is therefore inevitable that some babies will be born on Feb. 29. People born on leap days celebrate in different ways. Some choose to celebrate on Feb. 28 on non-leap years because they were born in February, while others celebrate on March 1 because they do not feel that they have become one year older yet on Feb. 28. Others celebrate both days, while some only celebrate when it is truly their birthday on another leap year.
Apart from deciding when and how to celebrate a rare birthday, leap year babies face other problems with their unusual birth date. Many software programs and online registration forms do not recognize Feb. 29 as an actual birth date. In some states, people born on Feb. 29 must choose a different birth date for their driver's licenses. Some countries have special rules regarding leap year babies, as they only legally celebrate their birthdays a few times. For instance, someone born on Feb. 29 who has been alive for 64 years would have only celebrated his or her birthday 16 times.
- Time and Date: Why Leap Years Are Used
- National Geographic News; Leap Year: How the World Makes Up for Lost Time; Brian Handwerk; February 2008
- Ventura County Star; For Those with Feb. 29 Birthdays, 'Every Four Years is Special'; Alicia Doyle
- Time and Date: Leap Day -- February 29
- IQTrainwrecks; Leap Year Babies are Hopping Mad; Daragh O Brien; February 2008
- Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images