People who are born on Feb. 29 are known as "leaplings." But in nonleap years, when do they celebrate their birthday?
"Sometimes we did it on Feb. 28; sometimes March 1. It depended what else was going on," says Margaret Hicken, whose son, Mark, was born Feb. 29, 1968.
It was always a lot of fun, both for him and for the rest of the family, to have him born on that day, she says. "The other kids liked telling their friends that 'My brother was born on Feb. 29,' or had only had so many birthdays."
This year Mark turns 40 "or, as he likes to say, the big 1-0," says Margaret. When leap year came along, "we always tried to do something extra special for that birthday." This year Margaret and her husband, Jay, who live in Providence, will be going to Hurricane to visit their son to celebrate the big day.
When Linda Zollinger Morse, who was also born on Feb. 29, was growing up, "my dad used to tease me that there would be no birthday, so no birthday presents. I always did get them, but I don't remember which day."
She remembers that when she was a student body officer at Utah State University, "one time we had a meeting with student body officers from other colleges, and we were trying to figure out who was the youngest. I kept insisting that I had had fewer birthdays. But there was another boy who insisted the same thing. It turned out we were both born on Feb. 29. That was the first time I ever met anyone else born on that day."
Her family, too, always made a bigger deal when a Feb. 29 came around, and that tradition has continued. This year, to celebrate her "16th" birthday, she's going to Cancun.
As far as legalities are concerned, it can vary from country to country, but generally, Feb. 28 is accepted as the legal birthday for such things as drivers' licenses and voter registration.Of course, the actual years count for the actual age. But in literature and entertainment, just counting leap-birthdays has been a plot device. Consider the fate of poor Frederic in Gilbert and Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance." He was apprenticed to a band of pirates until his 21st birthday, which for the pirates meant until he had had 21 Feb. 29 birthdays, or until he was 84 years old.
Some famous people born on Feb. 29:
1468: Pope Paul III, noted, among other things, for excommunicating England's Henry VIII
1736: Ann Lee, founder of the American Society of Shakers
1792: Gioacchino Rossini, Italian composer of 36 operas, including "William Tell" and "The Barber of Seville"
1828: Emmeline B. Wells, publisher of the Woman's Exponent and fifth general president of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
1840: John Holland, Irish-American inventor of the submarine
1904: Jimmy Dorsey, American band leader
1916: Dinah Shore, American singer
1936: Jack Lousma, American astronaut