Leaplings, leapers, leap year babies—they are all terms for people born on February 29, a rarity that about .068 percent of the population experience. But, due to scientific explanations of how the earth rotates around the sun, we understand that without an extra day every four years, our calendar would be off by 24 days after 100 years.
So, what’s it like to be a leap day baby? Lisa Dondero of Stockton knows firsthand. Legally, she’s 55, but she’s only had 13 birthdays—Feb. 29, 2020 she’ll celebrate number 14. “It’s actually pretty cool being born on leap year. People really get a kick out of it,” she says. “I have fun telling them, especially the students I teach, how old I’ll be.”
After a few moments of disbelief, Lisa turns her rare situation into a lesson for her students in the Lincoln Unified School District in Stockton where she’s a teaching assistant for Special Ed/RSP students in grades 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th. “The students… make it a contest to see who will solve the math problem first.”
Growing up, Lisa never felt snubbed by her unusual birthday. Often, she says, she would celebrate on February 28 and March 1, once with her family and once with her friends. Every fourth year, she’d do something bigger. “My birthdays on leap year are extra special since it only happens every 4 years,” she says.
Leap Year By the Numbers
1 in 1,461 – the odds of being born on Feb. 29
200,000 – the approximate number of people born on Feb. 29 in the U.S.
2016 – the last leap year
March 1 – the date of legal observation for leapers in the U.S. (when it comes to milestones like 21st birthdays)
10,000 – number of worldwide members of The Honor Society of Leap Year Babies
Did You Know?
Because the legally observed birthday in New Zealand for leapers is Feb. 28 but in Hong Kong is March 1, leap year babies who want to enjoy an extra-long birthday could do so by flying from New Zealand to Hong Kong.