After 58 revolutions around the sun I have a broader, more contemplative view of birthdays, not only those that fall on December 25. “How would you like to be referred to as a collective of two instead of an individual all of your life?” said a twin in her 50s. “That was one of the reasons I left the town where I grew up when I was 18.” She and her sister created a tradition of celebrating their birthdays in two different months so each could enjoy the spotlight.
Summer babies often report feeling perennially cheated when left out of school birthday celebrations during the academic year.
Then there’s the February 29 birthday, also known as Leap Day, the extra day in Leap Year. Why the extra day? Leap days keep our calendar aligned with the Earth’s revolutions around the Sun. It takes Earth approximately 365.242189 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds – to circle once around the Sun. This is called a Tropical Year. Without an extra day on February 29 every four years, we would lose almost six hours every year. After only 100 years, a calendar without leap years would be off by approximately 24 days in relation to fixed seasonal days such as the vernal equinox or the winter solstice.
On the website of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, fellow leaplings share tales of woe: children who thought their birthdays were taken away; parents begging and bribing doctors to fudge birth certificates to February 28 or March 1. An Oregon woman who applied for a driver’s license was told, “There is no February 29. Are you sure that’s the day you were born?”
A birthday once every four years could be considered a raw deal unless you are a leapling with a unique perspective.
On February 28, 2016, NPR asked to hear from Leap Year babies how they celebrate. A common theme is the tradition of celebrating by dividing the actual age by four. One man said, “I normally celebrate my leap year birthdays by having a party in the style of the age that I’m turning. In this case, 8. Last time, we had a bouncy castle with lawn games, balloons and streamers and all behaved like we were 7 years old. And I like to traditionally celebrate my Leap Year birthday on the years where there is not leap year by having a two-day birthday festival.”
Whether we share our birthday with an internationally recognized historical figure, a twin or have a birthday once every four years, we’re adults. More heavily resourced than we were as children, it is up to us to helm our individual trips around the Sun.
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