Leaping out: Extra day provides unique experiences for those born on Feb. 29

Smyrna’s Zephaniah Gibson will be 12 in “leap-year age” when he celebrates his birthday with his family today. In reality, he is 48. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — Zephaniah Gibson has two children that — when it comes to the end of February each year — like to tease him that they are older than he is.

That’s just one of the many things about being a leap year baby born on Feb. 29 that makes them so unique and different.

Mr. Gibson laughed that this year he would be “turning 12 because leap years only happen every four years.” In reality, the Smyrna resident is 48.

Zephaniah Gibson, of Smyrna, is looking forward to spending his unique leap-year birthday with his wife, Oji, today along with their three children. (Submitted photo)

When the truck driver pulls back into town today, he will be ready to celebrate his birthday with his wife, Oji, and their three children. He said the older he gets the more he relishes spending time with his family on his birthday.

“I try to make sure not to work on my birthday and just go out and celebrate with my family — wife and kids,” said Mr. Gibson, one of around 5.2 million such leap-year babies around the globe. “I just try to spend some family time. I don’t try to make too much of a fuss about it anymore.

“My wife wants to go all out this year, she’s taking me out to a nice restaurant and I’m going to get dressed in a nice suit and we’re just going to go out and enjoy an evening as a family.”

Still, he can’t deny that being a leap year baby is a chance to be unique. In fact, only 1/1,461 of 7.6 billion people on earth were born on leap day.

Mr. Gibson said that his birthday bounces around when it’s not a leap year.

“For a lot of years, I celebrated my birthday on February 28,” he said. “I used to switch back and forth between February 28 and March 1 and, after a while, I just started celebrating it whenever it came around. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve wanted to celebrate it as late as possible, so that’s been March 1.”

There are several odd facts and figures that circulate around leap years and leap days, such as:

• We need leap years to keep the modern-day Gregorian calendar in alignment with Earth’s revolutions around the Sun. It takes the Earth approximately 365.242189 days, or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds, to circle once around the Sun.

•According to the rules set forth in the Gregorian calendar, leap years occur only in years that are evenly divisible by four. Century years are the exception to this rule. As a bonus, leap years in the United States almost always coincide with election years.

•Those people born on Feb. 29, a day which only occurs once every four years, will not have their 21st birthday fall on a leap year. You must be 21 years old in the U.S. to legally drink. Since Feb. 28 is not Feb. 29 then they cannot legally drink until after 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 28.

•If a person is born on Feb. 29, they are said to be a “leapling” or a “leap-year baby.” When they celebrate their birthday is up to them. They can choose March 1, going with 365 days makes a year, or choose to celebrate it in February going by the same month philosophy.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the only verified example of a family producing three consecutive generations born on Feb. 29 is that of the Keogh family. Peter Anthony was born in Ireland on a leap day in 1940, while his son, Peter Eric, was born in the United Kingdom on Feb. 29, 1964. Peter Eric’s daughter, Bethany Wealth, was also a leap day baby, born in the UK on Feb. 29, 1996.

Another thing that is linked to leap day is when, according to an old Irish legend, women traditionally propose to men – and not the other way around. It is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how leap day balances the calendar.

According to the World Heritage Encyclopedia, in the 1800s, the British-born James Milne Wilson, who later became the eighth premier of Tasmania, “was born on a leap day and died on a leap day.” Mr. Wilson died on Feb. 29, 1880, on his “17th” birthday, or aged 68 in regular years.

One thing is certain, leap day is unique – and leap year babies follow true to form.

“My father decided because I was born on a leap year, he would give me a name that’s not as common as some others are because I was unique,” Mr. Gibson said. “So, he named me Zephaniah — named after a book in the Old Testament of the Bible. There probably aren’t a whole lot of other people who have that name, so it definitely is something that stands out.”

Celebrities born on leap day

1468 – Pope Paul III (d. 1549)

1792 – Gioacchino Rossini, Italian composer (William Tell, The Barber of Seville) (d. 1868)

1896 – Morarji Desai, former Indian prime minister (d. 1995)

1968 – Wendi Louise Peters, English television and theatre character actress

1916 – Dinah Shore, American singer (d. 1994)

1924 – Al Rosen, American baseball player

1924 – Carlos Humberto Romero, former president of El Salvador

1960 – Anthony (Tony) Robbins, American motivational speaker

1964 – Lyndon Byers, Canadian hockey player

1972 – Saul Stacey Williams, American singer, musician, poet, writer, and actor

1972 – Antonio Sabàto Jr, Italian-born actor

1976 – Ja Rule (real name Jeffrey Atkins), American rapper and actor

1980 – Chris Conley, American musician and songwriter/composer