In British tradition, it is the one day women can propose to men for marriage. According to Greek superstition, couples who marry on this day have bad luck. If you are born 29 February, are you 4 years old on the next leap year or are you 1 year?
An extra day that resolves the problem of our calendar, 29 February also poses dilemmas to parents about to give birth on that day.
Sarah Hafez is expecting to give birth Wednesday.
“My husband and I are still discussing whether we should write [the baby's] birthday on the birth certificate as 29 or 28 February, or 1 March.”
Hafez worries about how the child will feel when he grows up about having an actual birthday every four years. However, she is excited about the uniqueness of a 29 February birthdate.
Nadia Esmat was born in the leap year of 1976 and says “as a child I felt different but special.” She celebrates her birthday every year but gets to choose the day she celebrates.
According to Egyptologist Hanan Deyab, the origin of leap year came from the Alexandria Library. Ancient Egyptians used a 365-day calendar divided into 12 months of 30 days, with five extra days at the end of the year devoted to celebrating the birth of their gods.
“The ancient Egyptians, however, found that every now and then the Nile floods were out of bounds,” Deyab said. Before the calendar became solar, it was based on the activity of the Nile and the extra quarter of a day each year was not incorporated into the calendar.
During the reign of Cleopatra VII and Julius Caesar, the calendar had traveled from Egypt to Greece, then Rome. Deyab says a scientist from the Alexandria Library suggested adding an extra day every four years to resolve the discrepancy.
The day is a special one for Esmat, who says she never had any trouble with official papers or documents in Egypt, and every four years she sometimes has an extra-special celebration if she wants.
A Facebook group made for those born on 29 February says why leapers are special — the chance of being born on 29 February is about one in 1,461. Put another way, the group says, only .0684 percent of the world’s population are “leapers.”
Generally, leap years fall on years you can evenly divide by four. However, because our astronomical year is 365.242216 days, to account for the .0078 remainder from a quarter day, the leap year does not occur all the time. Century years that are not evenly divided by 400 do not have leap years in them.
While 29 February makes its way into the calendar every four years to align the days, Hafez is preparing to make light of the decision whether to write her baby’s birthday on that day.
“It does not matter in the end — I just want a healthy baby,” she says.