The pros and cons of being a leap-year baby
This year, babies born on the last day of February will have a special distinction: They will be leap-year babies.
The chance of being born on Feb. 29 is slimmer than being born on any other day of the year. Whereas most dates contain a 1 in 365 chance of being someone’s birthday, Feb. 29 only happens every four years, bringing the likelihood of being born on a leap day down to 1 in 1461.
Why do leap years exist?
The world — and its rotation — are complicated. Although we think about a year (or a complete orbit around the sun) as lasting 365 days, it actually takes 365.2422 days, or about 365 and one-fourth days. If we ignored this spare quarter day, the northern hemisphere would eventually have winter in July and summer in December. For the sake of keeping our seasons consistent, we make up for this lost quarter of a day by adding one day every four years.
Leap years have existed ever since the reign of Julius Caesar. Before Caesar came to power, people observed a 355-day calendar with an extra 22-day month added every two years. Unfortunately, this method was a little too convoluted and holidays tended to gradually shift from one season to the next. Caesar had his astronomer simplify things by giving us a 365-day year with an extra day added every four years.
Why it’s hard to be a leap-day baby
People who were born on leap days have to put up with problems the rest of us will never encounter. Here are only a few examples:
They can have issues with paperwork. Some companies and government agencies have computer systems that are unable to recognize Feb. 29 as a valid birthday. Leap-year babies might need to jump through extra hoops when applying for health insurance, a driver’s license or college.
They hear the same jokes over and over. Because individuals who were born on leap days only have “real” birthdays every few years, they need to deal with constant jokes about looking “much older than the other 5-year-olds” or being “more accomplished than the average 10-year-old.” They might get prank cards or gifts. These jokes can get old very quickly.
People forget their birthday. In this day and age, most people remember birthdays because Facebook gives them notifications. Unfortunately for leap-year babies, their birthday often goes unacknowledged during the off-years. They may need to fight to get friends and families to celebrate with them on the “wrong” day. As children, they might feel isolated or left out when other children get regular birthday parties and they don’t.
Why it’s awesome to be a leap-year baby
Of course, not all leap-day babies are bogged down by the negatives. Some individuals embrace the never-ending jokes about their age and bask in the uniqueness of their birthdate. Here are some of the positives associated with being born on a leap day.
People remember their birthday. Although many leap-year babies lose their birthdays during non-leap years, others are bombarded with well wishes and celebrations. After all, since so few individuals are born on Feb. 29, the people who do have that birthday tend to stick out. Speaking of …
People remember them. Although it’s arguably better to be remembered for your accomplishments rather than your birthdate, people who are born on leap day aren’t easily forgotten. Their unique birthday gives them a unique charm.
They can make their birthday into an event. When your birthday happens every four years like the Olympics, you have a better excuse to go all out than your peers. Leap-year babies can set up a spectacular party, visit friends and relatives and generally have an excellent time. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself at a leap-day birthday party this year.
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Written by Courtney Lopresti, M.S. neuroscience, Sovereign Health Group writer
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