‘Leaplings’ Enjoy Day Marking a Legit Fountain of Youth

by   |   dalewand@bju.edu   |  

On Saturday, wish Ruby Manville and Andrew Ahrens a happy birthday. It will be your only opportunity to mark the date until 2024.

They are the only individuals in the BJU community—students, faculty, staff—of 3,500-plus who are leaplings (born on Feb. 29, which occurs every four years).

A common year is a standard Gregorian calendar year with 365 days divided into 12 months and only 28 days in February. Leap years have 366 days. In common years, most leaplings celebrate their birthdays either Feb. 28 or March 1. Ahrens said he celebrates “on both days” and Manville said she has chosen between the dates.

“I almost always chose whichever was closest to the weekend,” said Manville, a junior Journalism and Mass Communication major from Michigan. “I’ve always thought I had the coolest birthday and I thank my mom for that.

“When I was born, everyone said to my mom, ‘the poor girl only gets a birthday every four years.’ But my mom, being born on April Fools’ Day, thought it was important for me to love my birthday no matter what day it was on. Leap year or not, she always went out of her way to make every year special, not just every four years.”

Looking Forward to the Day

There are currently about 187,000 people in the U.S. and about 4 million worldwide who were born on leap day. Ahrens, also from Michigan, and Manville have embraced the uniqueness.

“My birthdays have been amazing growing up,” said Ahrens, who, along with Manville, is eligible to join the Honor Society of Leap Year Babies. “I got some amazing gifts and got to spend it with awesome friends. I think my birthday is pretty cool.”

Said Manville (left): “I think leap day is awesome. I wouldn’t even consider changing my birthday if I could. Yes, the ‘you’re only 4’ jokes get old. But I’m beyond excited to be turning 5 this February.”

Notable individuals born on Feb. 29 include Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini (William Tell, The Barber of Seville) born in 1792, singer and TV personality Dinah Shore born in 1916, motivational speaker Tony Robbins born in 1960, and actor Antonio Sabato Jr. born in 1972.

Why? A Brief History

Leap days are observed to synchronize the calendar year with the solar year. It takes the Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds to orbit the sun. Thus, an extra 24 hours accumulates every four years, requiring an extra calendar day be added to align with the sun’s position.

If not corrected, seasons would occur later and later in the calendar. Think about the confusion that would create.

Time Refund Day

Leap day is also a 24-hour bonus. How will you spend the extra time?

According to a recent H&R Block survey about how Americans value time, 88% of respondents said they would add one (or more) hour to every day to give them additional time to spend with family and friends, some “me” time and more sleep time.

Beware of Bachelor’s Day

Leap day is still associated with customs, superstition and folklore. In some countries, Bachelor’s Day allows a woman to propose marriage to a man. If the man refuses, he is obligated to purchase 12 pairs of gloves for the woman so she can hide her shame of not wearing an engagement ring.

According to Irish legend, St. Brigid struck a deal with St. Patrick for this reversal to balance the roles of men and women in a similar way the leap day balances the calendar.

Leap Year Conversation Starters

  • Ancient Egyptians used a fixed 365-day year, but Ptolemy III devised a leap-year calendar in 238 BC.
  • In 45 BC, Julius Caesar was the first to implement a leap day every four years. The initial leap day in his Julian calendar was Feb. 24 (February was the last month of the year).
  • In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar, which has a more precise formula for calculation of leap years. The Gregorian calendar repeats itself every 400 years.
  • In 2024, leap day will be Thursday.
  • Our calendar is accurate to one day in 3,333 years, which means we have until about 5000 to decide whether to redraw our calendar again.
  • Leap day is also St. Oswald’s Day, named after the archbishop of York, who died on Feb. 29, 992.
  • Karin Henriksen of Norway gave birth to three children on Feb. 29—Heidi in 1960, Olav in 1964 and Leif-Martin in ‘68.

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