So, how old are you really?

Hannah Baker

Marjoanne Thompson graduated high school, attained a master’s degree from SDSU, got married and had children all before the age of seven.

Well, technically she is 28 years old, but Thompson, now an academic advisor at SDSU, is a “leapling.”She was born on Feb. 29, Leap Day, so according to the calendar she really doesn’t look her age.

Leap Years began over 2,000 years ago when Julius Caesar decreed any year evenly divisible by four would be a leap year. His calendar provided 12 months totaling 365 and one-quarter days. This one-quarter day was saved and every four years, when it equaled one full day, was added to the end of February.

If there were no leap days every four years, after 100 years the calendar would be off by approximately 24 days.

Because the calendar doesn’t mark Thompson’s birthday every year, she does a little birthday rearranging and celebrates on Feb. 28 or March 1.

“I don’t mind having Feb. 29 as a birthday,” said Thompson. “If there was no Feb. 29 I would draw my own box on the calendar and write it in, which I still do.”

Some landmark birthdays, like when Thompson turned 21 and was able to go drink downtown legally, have not fallen during leap years and could not be celebrated on her actual birthday. But, luckily for Thompson, the bars in Brookings made an exception for her.

“I was anxiously waiting for that day to come, like all do, and I just thought why not try to go on Feb. 28? Plus I was the youngest amongst my friends and they thought I should just try it as well. And the bars downtown here let me celebrate on the 28th,” she said.

The chance of having a Leap Day birthday is about one in 1,460, while people with other birthdays have a chance of one in 365. This rare occurrence causes some hype surrounding Thompson’s birthday, but to her it’s no more special than anyone else’s birthday. “People seem to get pretty excited when I tell them I am a Leap Year Baby. They will ask, ‘So what day do you celebrate?’ or ‘How old are you really?’” she said.

Besides the birthday hype, this unique day is responsible for other traditions around the world. Leap Year is a popular Irish legend that switches-up the traditional gender roles and gives women the opportunity to propose marriage to men. On “Bachelor’s Day,” men are expected to accept the proposal or pay a penalty if they decline. It is said in European upper classes, men who refused a proposal were expected to buy 12 pairs of gloves so the woman could wear them to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring.

To some cultures, Leap Year isn’t all fun and games. A Greek superstition states bad luck will come to couples that marry during a leap year. It’s possibly a silly superstition, but one in five Greek couples don’t want to run the risk and purposely make sure not to plan their weddings during leap years.

Thompson chooses to look past all the hype, wacky traditions and superstitions, though, taking a more low-key approach to her birthday.

“As I get older my birthdays feel like every other day, except I get presents,” said Thompson. “[Though] It is always fun celebrating anything with my family and friends.”


Leap Year Birthdays Run in the Family

According to the Guinness Book of Records, a family in the United Kingdom has three generations born on Leap Day: Peter Anthony Keogh, Peter Eric Keogh and Bethany Wealth.

A Norwegian family named Henriksen from Andenes holds the official record for number of children born on Feb. 29. Karin Henriksen gave birth to three children on consecutive Feb. 29; her daughter Heidi in 1960 and her sons Olav and Leif-Martin in 1964 and 1968 respectively.


Famous Leaplings

Chinese Leap Year: The Chinese leap year has 13 months, with a leap month added about every three years. The name of a leap month is the same as the previous lunar month. The leap month’s place in the Chinese calendar varies from year to year.

1468 Pope Paul III – last Renaissance pope (1534-1549)

1692 Edward Cave – England, printer (Gentlemen’s Magazine)

1792 Karl Ernst Baer – Embryologist, found mammals develop from eggs

1904 John “Pepper” Martin – Feisty third baseman for St. Louis ‘Gashouse Gang’

1916 Dinah Shore (Frances Rose Shore) – USA, actress, singer, talk show


1920 Louise Wood – director of Girl Scouts of USA (1961-72)

1936 Sharon Webb – Science fiction novelist (Earthchild)

1944 Dennis Farina – USA, actor

1944 John Niland – NFL guard for Dallas Cowboys.

1956 J. Randy Taraborrelli – American celebritiy journalist

1968 Cary Conklin – NFL quarterback (SF 49ers)

1968 Bryce Paup – American football player, NFL linebacker (Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills)

1976 David Kendall, Sr. – Actor, USA

1976 Ja Rule – American rapper and actor

1980 Taylor Twellman – American soccer player

1992 Caitlin E.J. Meyer – Actress



Other Leap Year Traditions

Jewish Leap Year: A leap year is referred to in Hebrew as Shanah Me’uberet, or a pregnant year. A Jewish leap year occurs seven times in a 19-year cycle.

Bahá’í Leap Year: The leap day is inserted in the days of Ayyam-i-ha, a period of intercalary days devoted to fasting, hospitality, charity and gift giving from Feb. 26 to March 1. Most leap years in the Bahá’í calendar are at four-year intervals, but three out of four years are non-leap, causing eight-year intervals at those points in time.