Leap Year babies celebrate a special birthday

February 28, 2016
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Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter
Allison Clare Fee has started playing piano after receiving the instrument as part of a birthday gift from her family members. She is 8 years old today, or 2 in leap years. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter
Allison Clare Fee is excited to celebrate her birthday for the second time in her life on her actual birthday. A Leap Day baby, she turns 8 today. Order a Print
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Baylie Swart, 20, a student at West Virginia University who celebrates her non-Leap Day birthdays on March 1, submitted a photo of her 6th birthday party.

Allison Clare Fee is more excited than usual about her birthday this year.

Macaque in the trees
Allison Clare Fee is excited to celebrate her birthday for the second time in her life on her actual birthday. A Leap Day baby, she turns 8 today.
Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter

The second-grader at Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Peters Township has a leap year birthday – so, for only the second time in her life, she’ll be able to celebrate turning a year older on her actual birthday.

Her mother, Tara Fee, recalls the first time Allison Clare realized there was something unusual about her birthday.

“She was 4, and she was looking at a calendar to see what day she would turn 5, and I remember her flipping to March in disbelief, wondering what happened to Feb. 29,” Fee said.

Allison Clare plans to celebrate her actual 8th birthday with a S’mores birthday cake with eight candles – although technically, she said she could put two candles on the cake.

“I’d never do that,” she exclaimed. “My little brother is 2, not me. My teacher jokes about me being only 2.”

In addition to celebrating on Leap Day, Allison Clare’s mom has organized a camping-themed birthday party on the weekend after her actual birthday.

Usually, the family celebrates Allison Clare’s birthday on March 1, after she officially turns a year older.

Allison Clare doesn’t know anyone who shares a leap year birthday, and noted her grandparents call her a “rare type of kid.”

“I do feel really different from all the other people I know because I was born on Leap Day,” she said.

Macaque in the trees
Baylie Swart, 20, a student at West Virginia University who celebrates her non-Leap Day birthdays on March 1, submitted a photo of her 6th birthday party.

Sharing a leap year birthday with Allison Clare is 20-year-old Baylie Swart of South Strabane Township.

“Personally, I like it. I think it’s really cool. It’s rare,” said Swart, a student at West Virginia University who celebrates her non-Leap Day birthdays on March 1. “When someone says state a fun fact about yourself, I can always go to that.”

On leap years, Swart’s mother pulls out a special, large white candle that she lights once every four years (As it burns, a multi-colored number appears).

While Swart enjoys her unique birthday, she confesses that it gets tiresome when people use her leap year age.

This year, Swart turns 5, but please don’t mention that.

“Like I haven’t heard THAT before,” she said. “It gets annoying. But I love being born on leap year and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Ironically, one of Swart’s closest friends at WVU shares a leap year birthday.

Leap year birthday girl Rachel Gladden of Washington is still a teenager, in leap years.

“Oh, I’m still a teenager, but when I look in the mirror, I realize time is moving on,” laughed Gladden, who won’t divulge her actual age.

Gladden said she didn’t especially enjoy her Leap Day birthday while growing up, but has had fun with it since her grandchildren were born.

“My mother got a kick out of it. It’s a novelty,” Gladden said. “I didn’t find it fun at all. When Feb. 28 comes, it isn’t your birthday yet, and I wasn’t born in March. Consequently, you’re so used to not having a birthday that when the 29th comes around, it seems anticlimactic.”

Gladden and her grandfather, who was born Feb. 26, always celebrated their birthdays jointly on Feb. 28.

One thing Gladden enjoyed about her birthday every year was the spice cake with sea foam icing that her mother went into Pittsburgh to purchase from a bakery.

She still celebrates her birthday – leap day or not – with a spice cake.

Gladden said she twice has traveled to Disney World on her leap year birthday with her husband, Tom (it was his idea), and their grandchildren, and they have been her favorite birthdays.

“That was fun to do. My parents always tried to make it special, and Tom tries to make it special,” said Gladden, a retired kindergarten teacher who used her birthday to teach the concept of leap year.

“I still hear from a lot of former students on my birthday when leap year comes around, which is nice,” Gladden said.

Over the years, she bonded with fellow leap year babies in the area, who would call on leap days to wish each other happy birthday.

There’s a leap year every year that’s divisible by four. But why?

It takes the earth 365.2422 days to orbit around the sun, but the January-December Gregorian calendar uses 365 days. So leap years are added as a way of keeping our calendars in sync with the Earth and its seasons.

People with Feb. 29 birthdays can connect with each other online at the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies. More than 10,000 members from around the world have joined since the website was launched in 1997.

And Feb. 29 babies can celebrate their birthday in Anthony, Texas, which calls itself the Leap Year Capital of the World and, since 1988, has hosted a birthday festival that includes hot air balloon rides and has attracted leap birthday children and adults in their 90s.

Said Allison Clare, “A leap year birthday is a little bit special.”

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

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