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'A really cool day:' Being a leapling can take some explaining

There are plenty of little quirks that come with having a Feb. 29 birthday
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Feb. 29 shows up every four years to produce a leap year, which is one day longer than a typical year to allow the calendar to keep in line with the seasons. MATT ROURKE, AP

Leapies, leapers, leaplings … they’re just some of the names for people who happen to have a Feb. 29 birthday.

One of them is University of Victoria graduate and recent Ladysmith resident Mike Reid, who turns 36 on Feb. 29 — or nine, depending on how you count the years.

Now living in Vancouver, he entered a contest for leap-year babies put on by the Vancouver Canucks and won a free ticket to tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Kings.

“It was kind of cool,” Reid said.

Growing up as a leap-year kid — with an official birthday only once every four years — was always a bit different, he said. “I think the first time that I realized I had a special birthday was, I think I was in Grade 3.”

Feb. 29 wasn’t on the calendar on his classroom wall, so he asked his mother about it, and she explained that he got to celebrate on March 1 instead.

Reid said there are plenty of little quirks that come with having a Feb. 29 birthday, like the time he was asked for ID at a liquor store in the United States and his birthday didn’t come up when the ID was scanned.

“They were looking at my ID and saying: ‘Is this fake?’ and I said: ‘No, it’s just I’m born in a leap year,’ ” he said. “They didn’t understand it — I had to explain it to them. There’s a lot of explaining to do with my birthday.”

Reid said he ended up getting to buy some liquor, though.

Feb. 29 shows up every four years to produce a leap year, which is one day longer than a typical year to allow the calendar to keep in line with the seasons.

That’s because the time it takes Earth to orbit the sun is actually around 365.25 days, and an additional day every fourth February squares things up.

Our Gregorian calendar — started in 1582 and named after Pope Gregory XIII — is where the concept of a leap year came into being.

The Honour Society of Leap Year Babies was formed in 1997 to bring together those with Feb. 29 birthdays — the result of former Duncan resident Peter Brouwer merging his Island-based group for leapies with Raenell Dawn’s Oregon-based group.

“Raenell takes it personally every time she sees a calendar with an empty box on Feb. 29,” Brouwer told the Times Colonist’s Jack Knox in 2020.

Dawn said she fields a barrage of calls about this time every four years from members of the media looking to personalize leap year.

“I’ve been doing interviews for two weeks, honey,” she said with a laugh on Wednesday.

She said she formed her first group for people with leap-year birthdays in 1988. The current group created with Brouwer has 5,000 members on its Facebook page, and thousands more around the world.

“I’m on a mission to get the attention of hospitals so that they don’t suggest to the parents of a new little leapling to put the date of Feb. 28 or March 1 on the new birth certificate,” Dawn said. “They need to understand it’s OK to be born on leap day.”

Most people born on leap day love the distinction, she said, but some find it an issue.

“I want them to understand what the day represents,” Dawn said. “They were born on a really cool day.”

Since it keeps the calendar and the seasons in sync, it’s a day that stands for “balance and harmony,” she said.

“Its everyone’s extra day and we recommend they do something good with it.”

Since she was born on leap day in 1960, she said she is both “sweet 16” and 64 this year.

Famous people with leap-year birthdays include former NHLer Henri Richard, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, Dinah Shore — and Superman, if you count fictional characters.

There are about five million people around the world with leap-year birthdays, and the odds of being one are about one in 1,461.

jbell@timescolonist.com

>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: letters@timescolonist.com 

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