Leapers celebrate their true birthdays every four years, and 2012 is one such exceptional year. “It only happens once every four years, so you’ve got to have some fun with it,” Martin says.
Most leapers celebrate their birthdays on Feb. 28 or March 1 but are always looking to relish their rare birthright. Martin and family used to frequently visit the “Guess Your Age” booth at King’s Island, where she defiantly challenged attendants to guess her age before politely informing them that they were way off. “When we told them our (Leap Year) age, they’d just chuckle. One person even asked to see my ID.”
Despite Leap Year being a bit of an oddity, it’s a normal part of keeping up with the seasons. The normal calendar year is 365.25 days long, so we round off and add one full day every four years.
“While Leap Day itself is a chronological anomaly, after 2,000 years, it’s still the best way to ensure that the seasons come at the same time every year,” says Peter Brouwer, co-founder of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies.
If we didn’t adjust, the calendar would drift a little every year, eventually sliding into 90-degree weather in October.
Martin loves talking about her peculiar birthday and the stories it has fetched over the years.
Like the time she went to buy 3.2 beer on her 18th birthday, which she normally celebrates on Feb. 28. “I told the bartender my birthday and he didn’t know what to do,” Martin says. The bartender reluctantly pleaded for her to come back on March 1.
Since Feb. 29 only arrives every four years, your chances to be born on Leap Year Day are less than a tenth of a percent. That’s pretty rare as far as birthdays go. But Martin’s real twist of fate is that her son, Chris Martin, was born on Feb. 29, 1988.
“It wasn’t planned at all. When my son was due March 4, I thought briefly that it might be cool, but I didn’t ever think it was going to happen,” Martin says.
The coincidence is astronomical. The probability of a leaper to have a child born on Leap Year is more than one in 2 million, which makes for an unlikely game of leapfrog. To put that in context, it’s far more likely to be born when Haley’s Comet is visible to the naked eye, and twice as likely to be struck by lighting.
And although Feb. 29 is just another day of the year, the abnormal birthdays can throw others for a loop.
“My personal favorite is by a (Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies) member named Kathleen,” Brouwer says. “She went to the emergency room thinking she was having a heart attack.” But when the doctor showed up, the first thing he asked was, “So, when do you celebrate your birthday?”
“We hear this question a lot,” Brouwer says, “but this situation really takes the cake.”
Many mix-ups result from computers failing to recognize Feb. 29 as a valid date. “This extra day has been happening since 45 B.C.,” says Raenell Ochampaugh, co-founder of the Honor Society. “It’s about time we catch ourselves up with technology.”
“You’d think they have the extra date in the D.M.V. computers, but I wasn’t able to use my real birthday on my I.D. until recently,” Martin says.
Ochampaugh says that she’s used to seeing confusion from the deviant date, even as basic as calendars omitting the day itself.
“Calendar companies need to put the words ‘Leap Day’ on the 29th every Leap Year. It’s the day that represents how balanced the calendar is, and yet they miss it every Leap Year,” she says.
So while the extra day remains quite simple in theory, when it comes around it’s quite a different story. Case in point: Although Martin was denied alcohol on Feb. 28 prior to her 21st birthday, her son was happily served a few years ago under the same circumstances. Either the alcohol laws are getting lax, or everyone’s still just a little confused about Leap Year. ©