Kids celebrate leap-year birthdays

Yoya Tsuji, a second-grader at Samuel Tucker Elementary School in Alexandria, celebrates her birthday in March. (FAMILY PHOTO)

Happy Leap Day! February 29 is a rare day. That’s because February normally has 28 days. Not this year! This year we get an extra day in February! (Keep reading if you want to know why.) Leap years occur every four years, so the last one was in 2008.

What happens if you’re born on February 29? Can you still celebrate every year? How do you celebrate? When do you celebrate? We asked four young “leaplings,” or people born on February 29, to explain.

Feeling special

Lillian Hall, Daijah Higgs, Yoya Tsuji and Zachary Willard all agree that being born on February 29 makes them feel special.

Lillian, who’s a sixth-grader at the Key School in Annapolis, says that it used to bother her when kids teased her about her birthday. Now that she’s 12 years old, however, she says she’s over that. “I’m appreciating [my birthday] more now,” she says.

Zachary, who’s in sixth grade at Brookfield Elementary School in Chantilly, says he has been teased, too. Sometimes kids make comments such as “You’re only 3 years old!” That’s because before today, he had been alive for only three February 29ths.

Daijah Higgs, a seventh-grader at Key Middle School in Springfield, has bigger birthday parties in leap years. (FAMILY PHOTO)

Zachary figures that someday his weird birthday will work to his advantage. In the year 2040, for example, when all his friends are turning 40, he could say that he was turning 11 years old. “I like being born on the 29th,” he says.

When do you celebrate?

When it’s not a leap year, Lillian and Zachary celebrate their birthdays on February 28. They say they prefer keeping their birthdays in the same month every year.

Daijah, a seventh-grader at Key Middle School in Springfield, celebrates her birthday on March 1. In leap years, her mom throws bigger parties. Yoya, a second-grader at Samuel Tucker Elementary School in Alexandria, celebrates in March, too.

Why have leap year, anyway?

There are 365 days in most years. That’s because that’s about how long it takes for the Earth to revolve, or go, around the sun. The problem is, the revolution actually takes Earth 365 days plus six hours, 9 minutes and 9.7 seconds. If we didn’t add an extra day every four years, in 100 years, we would be about 24 days ahead of where we should be, and instead of heading to the beach in the heat of the summer, we would be heading back to school.

Who thought of this?

The calendar, something that we need and use so much today, was invented thousands of years ago as a way of keeping track of time. It has changed here and there. In 46 B.C. the Roman emperor Julius Caesar added an extra day to February every four years, and the leap year was born.

The calendar as it is today seems to work pretty well, don’t you think? You know when you have to go to school. You know what night your favorite TV show is on. But a couple of Maryland scientists, Richard Conn Henry and Steve Hanke, have recently proposed a new calendar, one that they think would be simpler. In their version, all of the months except March, June, September and December would have 30 days, and every five or six years the calendar would include an extra week, called a “mini-month,” at the end of December. That would keep the calendar in line with what the Earth is doing.

Zack Willard, who’s in sixth grade at Brookfield Elementary School in Chantilly, says he has been teased about his weird birthday. (FAMILY PHOTO)

But what about the kids born in that rare mini-month? Would they get to celebrate their birthdays only every five or six years? Wow! All this makes being a leapling sound a lot more appealing.

— Moira E. McLaughlin

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