The five-year-old sophomore: being born on leap day

Kellen Stepler | Features Editor

02/27/20

Joe Chobany has been waiting for this day for four years.

Chobany is one of approximately 187,000 Americans who was born on Feb. 29. Dubbed “leaplings,” the odds of being born on Feb. 29 are greater than 1 in 1,461.

Feb. 29 can be found on a calendar only once every four years. The day is added to the calendar in leap years as a corrective measure, because the Earth revolves around the Sun in approximately 365.25 days. So, to make sure the calendar year is the same as a topical year, there needs to be a day added every four years.

However, a year that is divisible by 100, but not by 400, is not a leap year. So, 2000 was a leap year under the Gregorian calendar, as was 1600. But 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years.

Fittingly, the day falls between Feb. 28 and March 1.

Chobany said that when he was younger, his parents asked him when he wanted to celebrate his birthday on non-leap years. He celebrates it on Feb. 28, because his birth month is February, so he feels that he should celebrate it in February.

“Whenever I don’t have a birthday, it’s normal,” Chobany said. “When it actually is my birthday, I get cards for four-year-olds, five-year-olds.”

Despite the unique birthday, Chobany said there’s really “no advantage or disadvantage” of being a leapling. However, he uses the day as a fun fact about himself “all the time.”

“People don’t believe me when I say my birthday is February 29,” Chobany said.

In non-leap years, the effective legal date of a leapling’s birthday varies between jurisdiction. In New Zealand, for example, the official birthday falls on Feb. 28 in common years. In the United Kingdom, leap year babies have to wait until March 1.

Chobany explained that while this has never happened to him yet, it depends on the legal document to determine when his birthday is recognized in non-leap years.
“Some services don’t recognize Feb. 29 [as a birthday,]” Chobany said. “They move it to March 1.”

People with the unique birthday can join the Facebook group, “The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies.” According to their website, it is a free-membership birthday club for people born on Feb. 29.

The group’s mission is to promote Leap Year Day awareness (LYDA) by accumulating knowledge about the day along with people’s experiences.

The website is edited and produced by Raenell Dawn and Peter Brouwer, both born on Leap Year Day, cofounders of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies and determined celebrators of everything leap day, according to the website.

Although only a day as added now to correct the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, there used to be a leap month.

Ancient Romans added an extra month every few years because the Roman calendar year was 355 days, rather than the 365 days recognized now. However, this method became shortlived when Julius Caesar and ancient Roman astronomers decided to add just one day every four years. So, Caesar is therefore known as “the father of the leap year.”

On Feb. 29, Chobany will be celebrating his 5th birthday and 20th year of life.

“I’ve only had five birthdays, but I’ve also been living for 20 years,” Chobany said.

Once his birthday passes, he will have to wait four more years until he officially turns six.

“It’s fun to have a unique birthday,” Chobany said.

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