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Leap Day

February 29, 2012 by staff 

Leap Day, Peter Brouwer turns 56 on Wednesday. But if you count the times he’s celebrated his true birth date, he’s only turning 14. Brouwer is a Leap day baby. And like a lot of people born Feb. 29, he relishes the uniqueness of his birthday. He even thinks there’s an advantage to marking your real birthday just once every four years.

“We don’t have that psychological drama of being a year older every year,” said Brouwer, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and is the co-founder of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies.

In off years, Brouwer says, most Leap day babies — perhaps 80 percent — celebrate their birthdays in February “because they’re born in February. We call them strict Februarians.”

But Jennifer Whisnant of Greensboro, N.C., whose daughter Ava was born in 2008, says they “celebrate on the closest Saturday for a party, or on March 1st, which is technically when she would have been born had it not been Leap year.”

Birth certificates and most government agencies like Social Security use Feb. 29 for those born on Leap Day, but leaplings occasionally encounter bureaucratic difficulties using their true birth dates. Some computerized dropdown menus don’t include Feb. 29.

“My life insurance policy is for March 1 because their computer doesn’t support Leap day,” Brouwer said.

On Facebook, Anne McCarthy’s friends get a note Feb. 28 that her birthday is the next day. Then on March 1, “there would be nothing. So, unless it was a Leap year, friends would not see birthday reminders for the actual day,” said McCarthy, of Boston, turning 24 on Wednesday (in Leap time, 6).

There are no reliable numbers on exactly how many babies are born on Leap day, but statistically, the odds of being born then are the same as any other day.

“The law of averages means your chance of being born on Feb. 29 are one out of 1,461,” Brouwer said, explaining that 1,461 equals 365, or the number of days in the year, times four, plus one for the extra day in the four-year cycle. “We figure in the U.S., there’s about 200,000 of us, and in the world, about 5 million.”

There’s also no good way of definitively determining whether mothers with scheduled C-sections or induced births avoid or embrace Leap day.

Fewer babies are born on weekends in the U.S. than on other days, according to research by the National Center for Health Statistics, and since Leap day fell on a Sunday in 2004 and a Friday in 2008, birth numbers from those years don’t tell the whole story.

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