The Best and Worst Things About Having a Leap Year Birthday
Straight from the mouths of six "leapers," here are the pains and perks of being born on February 29.
Whether they call themselves “leaplings,” “leapers” or “leapsters,” people born on February 29 have strong feelings about their birthdays. Since they only experience their birth date every fourth year, there’s time to think about the joys and nuisances in between. The odds of being born on Leap Day are 1 in 1,461—these are more bizarre Leap Year facts you probably don’t know.
To get the inside scoop on Leap Day birthdays, we talked to six leapers.
Best: Non-leapers find it fascinating
From staff meetings to cocktail parties, leapers have an easy “fun fact” to break the ice. Holly Townsend Coombs (born 1960) says she has even been in the newspaper because of her birthday.
Karen Korr (born 1976) adds, “Anytime I’m at a work retreat or any other event where you have to go around and say one interesting fact about yourself, I have a great one—and an easy conversation starter.”
Zach Scott (born 2004) enjoys seeing how excited people get about his birthday. He says when people find out he was a Leap Day baby, “They always say ‘I’ve always wanted to meet one!’ or ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe it!'”
Worst: Incorrect paperwork
Raenell Dawn (born 1960), co-founder of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, has been frustrated again and again by computer systems that do not recognize her February 29 birthday.
“We are forced to put February 28 or March 1,” she explains. “When I moved to Oregon and went to the DMV, the employee told me that the computer said February 29 is not a valid date. She told me to choose February 28 or March 1. I would not accept that, and asked that a manager be called.” The manager fixed the issue, listing Dawn’s birth date and expiration date as February 29—even though the expiration year had to shift to the next Leap Year.
Tabetha Vermillion-Freeman (born 1988), on the other hand, once got the last laugh because of the discrepancy. She explains, “When I turned 21, I had just moved to Virginia, so I still had my unexpired Oklahoma license along with my new Virginia one… My Oklahoma license said I was 21 on the 28th. Virginia said I wasn’t 21 until March 1st. Guess which one I used for the bar that night?!”
Best: A common bond
From clubs to Facebook groups, leapers have a way of finding each other. Their common bond often sparks fun new friendships.
This year, Jason Bohn (born 1980) is celebrating his Leap Year birthday on a birthday cruise in the Bahamas with 80 other Leap Day babies. The group found each other on social media because of their shared birthdays and they’re excited to finally meet each other and spend February 29 together.
After Dawn founded a Leap Day birthday club in 1988, she felt a sense of communal Leap Day pride. “I was born on the most important date on the calendar,” she explains. “It’s the reason all dates happen in the same season every year. That’s important.” She’s right—find out what would happen if we got rid of Leap Day.
Worst: Jokes on repeat
From playfully ribbing a 40-year-old for “illegally” drinking alcohol to telling a 68-year-old they’re almost old enough to vote, non-leapers like to give Leap Day babies a hard time about their age.
Vermillion-Freeman says the jokes get old pretty fast. She notes, “The most annoying thing is all the jokes directed to my husband, honestly. ‘Ha, you’re with a 7-year-old!'” The stale comedy is “a small price to pay,” she says. “Overall, I quite like my birthday.”
Bohn has found that, whether joking or not, people get downright confused about how Leap Day works. “People honestly think that I can’t get my driver’s license until I’m 64, and that’s just not the case,” he says.
Best: An excuse to throw a great party!
Celebrating a birth date once every four years puts a lot of pressure on Leap Year birthdays. But leapers don’t seem to mind. It’s a fun chance to indulge in an extravagant party or birthday vacation.
For her birthday in 2016, Korr raised $14,000 for Voices for Children in honor of her 10th birth date. She also hosted a toy drive for local foster kids. This year, for her 11th birth date, she’s raising money for No Kid Hungry. She says February 29 is a great excuse to gather people together for a good cause.
This year, Townsend Coombs is turning 60. But instead of an adult birthday bash, she’s celebrating with a full-fledged quinceañera, a traditional a coming-of-age birthday party thrown for 15-year-old Latinas.
For Vermillion-Freeman, half the fun is planning a party that represents the number of true birthdays she’s had. On her 28th birthday (her seventh birth date), she wore a tutu and pigtails for a unicorn-themed extravaganza.
According to Scott, a great party every four years is both a blessing and a curse. Leap Day birthdays are an excuse for his mom to make it “a huge deal,” but it’s also the day he realizes “I have to wait another 1,460 days to get another actual birthday again.” Still, he and the other leapers say they wouldn’t change their birth date.
“I have a birthday that only 0.07 percent of the world has,” Scott explains. That’s worth celebrating.
Even if you weren’t born on February 29, you can still have fun by planning one of these 16 Leap Year date ideas.