< Back to blog

Happy birthday at last Posted On 28 February 2020

It’s a leap year, when every four years we get an extra day in February. But what does that mean, particularly for those born on February 29?

The celebrated English actor Joss Ackland, who has appeared in more than 130 film and TV roles, is 23 tomorrow.

Darren Ambrose, the former Colchester United, Ipswich Town and Newcastle United footballer, made his England under-21s debut at the tender age of five.

And Superman hasn’t had his 21st birthday yet*. Yes, you read that right. Joss Ackland is 23. But hasn’t he made a career of playing grizzled old blokes in films such as The Hunt for Red October and Lethal Weapon 2, and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on TV? We know you can do wonders with make-up and prosthetics but, even so…

And Darren Ambrose doesn’t strike you as a child prodigy either. As for Superman, well it must be something to do with Earth’s atmosphere…

Actually, it’s much simpler. They are all leaplings, leapers or leapsters – leap year babies born on February 29th who only get to celebrate their official birthday every four years.

It is estimated there are almost five million of them across the globe, with the chances of being born on that day one in 1,461. However, Norwegian mum Karin Henriksen might have something to say about that – she gave birth to her children Heidi, Olav and Leif-Martin on consecutive Leap Days, while Irishman Peter Keogh (1940), his son Eric (1964) and granddaughter Bethany (1996) were all born on February 29th.

Not only that, for centuries astrologers believed babies born on that rare day were endowed with unusual talents, unique personalities and even special powers. Well, that accounts for Superman!

But what is a leap year and why do we have them?  Well, prepare to be confused. Leap years come every four years but are skipped every centennial year (1800, 1900 etc), but not 2000 as it can also be divided by four, although according to the Gregorian calendar, the most widely used across the planet, we still kept the extra day. We need them to counter-balance time. The Gregorian calendar measures a year at 365 days, the time it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun. But because this orbit takes 365.24 days, an extra day is added to the shortest month every four years to keep our seasons synchronised with the solar calendar.

If this didn’t happen, in 750 years or so, June would be in the middle of winter.

All of which probably means very little to someone who needs to decide when their new-born celebrates their ‘unofficial’ birthday in the intervening years.

It used to be that a baby born before noon on February 29th could celebrate their ‘unofficial’ birthday on February 28th, while after that it was March 1st. But, like the tradition of women being able to propose on Leap Year Day, that went the way of the dodo when legislation in the United Kingdom was introduced to say when a leapling (or leaper or leapster) turns 18, their birthday has to be on March 1st.

*Technically Superman has two birthdays – his Earth birthday was on April 18th, 1938 when he first appeared in print, but he was actually born on February 29th two years previously on Krypton. Joss Ackland was born in 1928 and Darren Ambrose 1984.

< Back to blog

Connect with us

Recent Posts

Christmas COVID restrictions explained

Coronavirus restrictions to be eased to allow people to mix with a wider circle of friends over Christmas…   Yesterday, the government announced the easing of COVID restrictions over the Christmas period, which will have come as a slight relief to many who have struggled to envision a festive period this year.   The easing …

Read more...

PM announces post-lockdown tiers for England

Yesterday, Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that the three-tiered regional measures will return from the 2nd of December.   He added that each tier will be toughened, but gyms and non-essential shops in all parts of England will be allowed to reopen. In a surprise announcement, the PM confirmed that spectators will be …

Read more...

Most unique and prestigious advent calendars for the whole family this Christmas.

Believe it or not, Christmas is coming, and it’s perhaps come around quicker than most Christmases before it… So it’s time to start thinking about advent calendars!   It’s true that we usually prefer to be eating chocolate each morning of December on the lead up to good ol’ Christmas, for it’s a time to …

Read more...

UK average house prices increase to record highs

Average house price increases by 4.7% over the year to September   According to the latest UK House Price Index from the ONS and the Land Registry, average UK house prices rose by 4.7%, up from 3.0% in August to a record high of £245,000.   This comes before a second boost to the property …

Read more...

Football-mad, Imogen raises over £14k for charity

An 11-year-old football-mad girl has done one keepie-uppie for each keyworker in the UK to raise money for charity.   Imogen Papworth-Heidel, a Cambridgeshire schoolgirl, was so inspired by Sir Captain Tom’s charity work during lockdown that she decided to set up a Just Giving page of her own. Imogen decided to do one keepie-uppie …

Read more...