Making Every Fourth Year Count

Posted Feb 29, 2024

By Giselle Fead ’24

According to NASA, the actual time it takes for the Earth to orbit the sun is approximately 365.25 days, not an even 365. By adding an extra day to the calendar every four years — Leap Day — we balance out the .25 difference.

Birthday Celebration

But what about people born on Leap Day? Individuals born on Feb. 29 typically celebrate their birthdays on either Feb. 28 or March 1 in non-Leap Years.

Alena Guillory ’26 was born on Leap Day. “When I was younger, I was quite frustrated that my birthday only came around every four years. Now, I appreciate its uniqueness and recognize that it was a pretty special day to be born on,” she said.

Although she’s in college majoring in sustainability studies, Guillory will be celebrating her fifth birthday, making her one smart cookie!

Over the years, Guillory has received some comical reactions when people find out her birthday is on Leap Year. “My favorite reaction I have gotten was from the kids I nanny. Their reactions shifted very quickly from confusion to, ‘I AM OLDER THAN YOU? WHY ARE YOU IN CHARGE?’”

Leap Year birthdays present a dilemma for individuals in deciding when to celebrate. Some prefer to celebrate on Feb. 28, sticking to the month of their birth, while others opt for March 1, considering it falls after Feb. 28. Guillory has consistently celebrated her Leap Year birthday on Feb. 28, explaining, “My parents wanted to keep it in February, so we always celebrate on the 28th.”

Professor of Psychology Michele Acker is another member of the uncommon birthday squad here at Otterbein and has been torn most of her life on which day to celebrate. “When I was young, my family and I disputed when it should be celebrated. They thought it should be on March 1 because technically I did not exist on Feb. 28. I felt it should be on Feb. 28 because I strongly identified with the month of February as my birth month. Also February’s birthstone is the amethyst and I really like purple. Once I was an adult, I decided I should celebrate both days to make up for the lack of an actual day.”

Acker has grown to love the recognition she gets from friends for when Leap Day comes around, people automatically think of her, getting all the extra “Happy Birthdays” even from people she hasn’t talked to in quite some time.

Growing up, Acker has learned to enjoy the uniqueness and conversion starters for it keeps her young. “I will be 14 this year in Leap Years. I think adolescence is not as hard the second time around,” Acker said.

Feb. 29 is a day that has brought up many superstitions all over the world. Some countries believe it’s a day of good luck while others think it’s bad. In the UK, women propose to their partners as a way to break tradition. Women find it empowering, a great surprise, or just fed with the wait. But this is not all. In Ireland, if the partner declines the proposal, it becomes costly, for the partner then has to give the women a gift to compensate for the disappointment. In Germany, it is tradition for men to decorate a birch tree with paper ribbons and place it outside of the house of their girlfriend, wife, or someone they have a crush on. On Leap Day, the roles are revered as the women take their turns.

Leap Year birthdays offer a fascinating glimpse into the quirks of our calendar system, with individuals like Alena Guillory and Michele Acker sharing their unique perspectives and experiences. From the dilemma of choosing which day to celebrate to the added attention and superstitions surrounding Feb. 29, Leap Year birthdays truly stand out. Whether it’s embracing the rarity of their birthdate or navigating the traditions associated with Leap Day, those born on Feb. 29 bring a special charm and conversation starter to their lives.

As we continue to mark each Leap Year, let’s appreciate the excitement that these uncommon birthdays bring to our calendars and make sure to wish Guillory and Acker a Happy Birthday!