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Leaplings Finally Get to Celebrate Again

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Imagine your birthday appearing on the calendar only once every four years.

Sounds preposterous, but that’s exactly the case for Leap Year Babies, who are born on February 29. So-called “Leaplings” may hold the secret to staying young, since they can claim that they age only one fourth as fast as everyone else. Also by this logic, an eldest sibling born on February 29 ends up being younger (or at least having fewer birthdays) than his or her younger brothers and sisters.

Take Sandy Phillips of Garrettsville, for instance. She was born on February 29,1956. While her classmates are turning 56 this year, she’s celebrating her14th birthday! Making her story even more intriguing is the fact that her first grandchild — Savannah Rutherford of Windham — was born prematurely on Leap Year 40 years later. So, while Savannah will celebrate her Sweet 16 this year, this will be only her fourth birthday to fall on February 29.

Sandy likes to joke, “Savannah was born on my 10th birthday. Ha ha ha… Such a  young grandma I was. My daughter Tawnia was not due until the first part of March, but when Savannah decided to make her entry into the world, she became my birthday present, sharing the same Leap Year Birthday! Savannah will be turning 4 this year and yet she’s old enough to drive a car.”

Sandy says that she and her grand-daughter share a very special Leap Year Baby bond. “I honestly think we’re like twins who share the same thoughts and feelings; we’re just separated by a couple of generations!”

Being a Leapling can cause logistical problems, like when to renew your driver’s license. It’s an ambiguous question that’s determined by each state. According to Ohio law, for someone whose birthday falls on February 29, the date of expiration is taken as March 1 for non-Leap Years.

So why does our calendar even include this periodic Leap Year? The Gregorian calendar, the standard calendar for civil use throughout the world, includes both common years and Leap Years. A common year has 365 days and a Leap Year 366 days, with the extra day designated as February 29. A Leap Year occurs every four years to help synchronize the calendar year with the solar year, or the length of time it takes the earth to complete its orbit about the sun, which is about 365¼ days.

However, that’s not the end of the matter. The length of the solar year is slightly less than 365¼ days—by about 11 minutes. To compensate for this discrepancy, Leap Year is omitted three times every 400 years. In other words, a century year cannot be a Leap Year unless it is divisible by 400. Consequently, 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not Leap Years, but 1600, 2000, and 2400 are.

So Leap Years are anomalies and Leap Year Babies are even more rare. The chances of being born on February 29 are 1 in 1,461, making about 187,000 people in the US and 4 million people around the world Leap Year Babies.

Sandy recalls, “When I was young, I was one of seven children. My mom (Viola Bandelow of Las Vegas, NV) would celebrate my birthday on the day that was closest to the weekend. When I got married (to Keith Bailey) I thought that might change, but not having an actual day gives my husband an extra day to say, ‘I didn’t miss your birthday (2/28), it’s really not until tomorrow (3/1).’ Having two daughters makes my husband be a little more focused though. They’re great about keeping him on his toes.”

While being a Leapling can cause a sense of being overlooked, Sandy says it makes her and her grand-daughter feel quite special. Not only does it create memorable birthday celebrations every four years, but Leap Years also match presidential election years and the Olympic Games.

There’s even an Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, a free membership birthday club for people born on February 29.  Almost 10,000 people from all over the world have joined since www.leapyearday.com was launched in 1997.

We know that Twinsburg is a special destination for twins. But Anthony, Texas is the self-proclaimed Leap Year capital of the world. Every year, this little town on the border of New Mexico holds a festival and birthday celebrations complete with a carnival and hot air balloon rides. People come from all over the world to celebrate their special birthday together in style. Maybe Sandy and Savannah will be there on February 29, 2016.