Thursday, February 20, 2014

2014: No birthday for people born on February 29

Photo: BBC
Leap days come once every four years. ‘Leapling’ or ‘leap year baby’ are terms used to describe a person born on February 29. And for many born on this day, their birthdays usually come with extra treats.

Mr. Jerry Adesewo is in his late thirties, but he has only seen his birth date nine times since his birth over three decades ago.

This is because Adesewo was born on a leap year.

 “If we have to go by the Leap Year, I think I should be nine years old now.  But I’ll be 37 by the end of this month,” said Adesewo, who is a writer and theatre director.

Since he can only celebrate his birthday once every four years, he decided to rewrite the script of his birth.
He said, “I’m not given to extravagant celebration, but I usually celebrate my birthdays with a few friends and my family members. Before now, I picked February 28, March 1, or the last Sunday of February to mark my birthday. I chose the last Sunday because I was born on a Sunday.

“As a young man, I used to feel bad that I didn’t have a birthday celebration every year, especially as my friends always invited me to their birthdays every other year. I decided to pick those three dates to measure up with my friends. It was much later that I had a better understanding and realised I was a very unique person as there are few of us born on February 29. Then, I began to appreciate it even more.”

He said his father prayed for him to be born on February 29.

“When I was younger, my father tried to make me understand my birth date was a special day because he wanted me to be born on that day. I would have been born on the 28th, but my father said he prayed that I would be born the next day because it was a very special day.

“He said my being born on the 29th was the answer to his request. Also, there is this belief among some Christians that the Leap Year was derived after Joshua in the Bible prayed and asked the sun to stand still for a day which caused the one or two days’ delay.  I always tell myself that I am a special being,” he told SUNDAY PUNCH.

Maybe that was why information and communications technology manager, Mr. David Aderigbibe, named his son, who was born on February 29, Joshua. He clocks five this February. “Interestingly, I never thought about it. I was just convinced about the name, Joshua, before his christening. But obviously, there is a relationship between Joshua in the bible and the sun standing still.  Whenever his birthday is approaching, I always think of how to go about it since February has 28 days each year and 29 days only in a leap year, which comes once every four years,” he noted.

As he grows older, Joshua has become inquisitive about his birth date. Aderigbibe said his son doesn’t want to hear that there is no February 29 this year.

He said, “Whenever I want to celebrate his birthday on the last day of February, being the 28th, he would ask me, ‘dad, but my birthday is on the 29th. I want to have my birthday on my birth date.’ It is hard explaining to him at his age. He may learn to overlook it as he grows older.

“This year, I know I will get the same look he always gives me. He usually looks lost when I try to explain it to him. I know his young mind finds it hard to understand why the day is missing.”

Every year is a special year, but Aderigbibe noted he would make February 29, 2016, a leap year, more special for his son, who would be seven then.

“For the first time, I am going to design and make him a nice outfit, something to remind us of that particular birthday. I would also bake him a cake with his favourite cartoon character and take him swimming, he likes water a lot, like me,” he said.

For communications and brand strategist, Merrilyn Okeleke, who is in her thirties, she described her birthday as a unique one and noted that she has never felt any different about being born on the February of a leap year.
“My parents usually bought a present for me every non-leap year and told me I was very special. I get teased a lot on my non-leap year birthdays though.  Some friends deliberately tell me that they are planning a birthday bash and want my birthday date; and when I mention 29th, they sigh and promise to do it in a leap year,” she said.

Celebrating her birthdays in her younger days was entirely her parents’ decision. But as an adult, Okeleke now celebrates her birthday on February 26, 27, or she does not celebrate it at all. “It is mostly low-key,” she said, adding that her most memorable birthday was on her 20th birthday.

“It was the first organised by me and not my parents as I was in the tertiary institution then. I got the surprise of my life when my roommate organised a surprise birthday that had the crème de la crème in the school and pushed my popularity up by 100 decibels. I always celebrate the actual February 29 birthday in a special way. At least, I have three years to decide and plan,” she said, smiling. “I look forward to my fortieth birthday,” she added.
For 46-year-old Hilda Egboh, it does not matter whether it was a leap year or not.

“I am a very happy person. So, I always look for any excuse to celebrate. As the 29th falls between February 28 and March 1, I expect pre-birthday wishes on the 28th and post-birthday wishes on the 1st. The actual February 29th birthday period often falls in the Lenten period and being Catholic, the celebrations are a bit more subdued. So, on non-leap years, I celebrate for two days instead of the traditional one day. I always have special birthdays. This year will not be any different,” she told our correspondent.

Since the date comes once every four years, people born on February 29 are considered unique and not very common.

It is said that the odds of being born on a leap day are one in 1,500. With a population of over 160 million, this means there could be about 100,000 Nigerians born on February 29.

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