Leap-year babies finally get to eat their cake, too

By Chris Armstrong

It’s time to wait an extra day before flipping the calendar page to March.

Four years have passed and Feb. 29 is once again on the calendar.

Feb. 29, or Leap Day, exists because the calendar year of 365 days doesn’t match the solar year — the time it takes for the Earth to go around the sun.

It actually takes 365 1/4 days for the Earth to circle the sun, so Leap Day evens out both the calendar and solar years.

But the addition of the extra day does cause some confusion, especially for people born on Feb. 29.

Known as “leapers” and “29ers,” people with Leap Day birthdays can only celebrate their official birthday once every four years.

Stories posted on leap year baby Web sites reveal some of the problems leapers encounter. For example, when Joel Tillman’s sisters revealed his birthday did not exist in 1966, the six year-old went crying to his mother.

Raenell Dawn, who also posted on the site, says she was teased mercilessly by her second-grade peers for having her birthday on Feb. 29.

But it seems record keeping isn’t a problem for babies born on Feb. 29.

Ron Vezina, a spokesman for the Ottawa Hospital, says hospitals only track the date of birth, not the age of the person.

When the computer has to track the age, it calculates how many years have passed, says Vezina, so leapers won’t get lost in the system.

But will a computer system get confused over Feb. 29?

“It’s only a matter if your system is date-dependent,” says Peter St. Germain, the Y2K project manager at Industry Canada.

Computers that don’t recognize 2000 as a leap year will have trouble, says St. Germain.

He says this problem might happen because leap centuries are rare, occurring once every 400 years.
If a computer thinks leap years do not occur on years ending in –00, then problems will arise this year, says St. Germain.

That’s why Finance Minister Paul Martin is planning to unveil the federal budget one day early.

The country’s annual budget is usually released on a Tuesday, but this year, Leap Day falls on a Tuesday.
Martin uses a computer to help in his budget presentations, and wants to make sure there are no technical glitches in his presentation.

So this year, the budget will be announced on Monday, Feb. 28.

Since Leap Day seems to have a large impact on day-to-day life, it’s no surprise that one U.S. town has declared itself the leap year capital of the world.

Anthony, Tex. gained the title because Mary Ann Brown, a 29er, asked the Anthony Chamber of Commerce for a day of festivities on Feb. 29.

Since its inception in 1988, the celebration has grown from a small birthday party to a four-day carnival covered by the national media.

Strangely, the City of Ottawa’s calendar of events is devoid of Leap Day celebrations, Centretown included.