Lifestyle & Belief

"Leapers" prepare to celebrate a rare birthday


A group of 'leap year babies' gather around a cake at a birthday celebration for them at the The Plaza Hotel in New York City, February 29, 2000. The group ranged from people born in leap years from 1920 to 1988. (Photo by Chris Hondros)


Chris Hondros

For those whose birthdays are tomorrow, it has been a long time coming. Four years, in fact. For tomorrow is February 29, a leap year day that occurs only once every four (or eight!) years. For the estimated 5 million people around the world, an all-too-rare birthday will finally be upon them.

"Leapers," as they're known, face a number of legal and technological challenges. Computers are glitchy, websites don't work, and run-ins with law enforcement sometimes lead to accusations of fake identities.

Reuters reported that the members of the Honor Society for Leap Year Babies often face the vexing question, "who cares?"

"I'll tell you who cares. One in 1,461 of us do," the group leader said.

Keeping track of leapers' birthdays isn't even as simple as counting to four; exceptions muddle the rule. Years with two zeros, like 1800 and 2100, are not leap years, even though they are fourth years. And another loophole: "Years ending in double zeros that can be evenly divided by 400, such as 1600 and 2000, are in fact leap years," Reuters said. 

A Texas man will turn 7 tomorrow, even though he was born in 1984, according to KTRE. Micah Shaffer said his birthday once produced monetary benefit: "When I was younger, I was in a grocery store in Houston and the general manager on February 29th said, 'If there is anybody who has a birthday on this day, we'll give you $200 worth of free groceries'. I just happened to be in the store and have my driver's license and showed him I was born on February 29th, and I got about $200 worth of free groceries," Micah told KTRE.

Norman Markworth, a professor of astronomy at Stepehen F. Austin State University, said the system we have now works, and past attempts to reconcile date misconfigurations would sometimes add entire months, leading to times known as the "Years of Confusion."