By Jasmaine Payne
GUYANA saw an addition of at least 36 Leap Year Day babies on February 29. That means that these babies– according to the Modern Gregorian calendar- will technically only celebrate their actual birth date every four years, although the mothers of most of the babies have opted to do so annually on either February 28 or March 1 and grand bash every four years.
According to information received from public hospitals around the country, 13 babies were born at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, three in Region 10 (Linden, Kwakwani and Upper Demerara), one in Skeldon, four in New Amsterdam, 11 in West Demerara, one in Lethem and three in Essequibo.
When 18 year old Tamara Tucker heard that she would be giving birth to her daughter on February 29, rather than think about the birthday situation, she felt that regardless, it was a blessing. “I’ll just celebrate her birthday on March 1 for the other years. I didn’t have any particular reaction to her being born on the Leap Year,” she said. For Tanesha Bernard however, the young mother admitted to at first being puzzled as to how she would celebrate her child’s birthday. “I was really wondering what would happen, and there wasn’t anybody who would tell me what would happen next year when February 29 didn’t come,” she said. Meanwhile, Anjalieene Ketwaroo chose to have her newborn son share his birthday celebrations with family members who all had “regular” birthdays in February. “I haven’t made any plans, I’ll deal with that when next year comes around,” Ketwaroo said.
For those whose birth dates actually circle every 365 days, there is always the question of how Leap Year Day Babies (known as “Leaplings” or “Leapers”) celebrate their birthdays and whether there is any truth behind the myths surrounding Leap Years.
Local folk legends have it that a Leap Year is not one with the best of luck; some believe that Leap Years are actually ill-fated, often making a busy season for death to run rampant, stealing great minds away from the living. Yet, ill-fated or not, actual Leapers feel no such bit of bad luck, except for the tiny fact that, for three years in a row, they have to borrow birthdays from either February 28 or March 1 until their beloved February 29 comes back around. Throughout the span of their lives, it is said that Leapers keep track of two sets of ages: their annual age (how old they really turn after every 365 days) and their quadrennial age (how old they turn according to ‘actual birth date’).
“When I was growing up, sometimes I would feel special that I was born on a Leap Year, other times I would feel sad that I didn’t have an actual birthday when I saw other children having big parties on the actual date of their birth,” says Ingrid Perreira, a 48 year old who technically has only had 12 actual birthdays in her life. The years that she didn’t have a “birth date”, she said her parents tried very hard to make her feel special on one of the two “borrowed days”. On the years that she did, they would go over the top to make up for the years missed. “But those things not important to me these days, I’m just glad to be alive,” she said.
Apart from Leap Years being tagged as ‘unlucky’, there are other myths surrounding the 366 day year and those born in it. In other parts of the world, some believe that Leapers are actually lucky and possess unusual talents. Others say women should propose to men in a Leap Year as they are unlikely (or unable) to refuse. Others believe that people should never get married or divorced during a Leap Year, lest never ending woe follows them the remaining days of their lives. Of course, as the world moves more toward modernity, many are gravitating towards debunking these myths.
So how does a Leap Year work? Well, while the Gregorian calendar says that the Earth’s orbit around the sun takes 365 days, it actually takes 365 days plus 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds. That means that every year, there is an extra quarter of a day. After four years, there is an extra day, which is added to the year so as to keep keeping our clocks (and calendars) in sync with the Earth and its seasons. The chances of having a leap birthday are one in every 1,461 births worldwide. To date, it is said that there are approximately 4.1 million people around the world who have been born on February 29.