Leap day babies: 'You just get to keep celebrating being young'

Christchurch teacher Sophie Lennon has only celebrated on the actual day of her birth 10 times....
Christchurch teacher Sophie Lennon has only celebrated on the actual day of her birth 10 times. Photo: Supplied
It's been a long time between birthdays for Christchurch teacher and leap day baby Sophie Lennon, who turns 40 today and marking the occasion on February 29 for only the 10th time in her life.

She will be celebrating her special status with bowling and arcade games to "embrace the 10-year-old me". 

"You just get to keep celebrating being young," she said.

Lennon is not the only "leapling" in her family; her cousin also celebrates a birthday today.

"She was born two weeks early on the morning of the 29th. At that stage I was two weeks late, I think my mum was a bit fed up that I hadn't come yet and had me that night. I was born on the same day as my cousin, in a leap year," she said.

Leap years have 366 days instead of 365 to counter the fact that Earth's orbit is not precisely 365 days a year.

An estimated 3500 New Zealanders celebrate birthdays on February 29, which works out to about 7 people in every 10,000, according to Stats NZ.

Lennon said she usually celebrated her birthday on February 28.

"I figure I've got a February birthday, not a March birthday. I have always thought, 'why wait an extra day when you can have it a day early?'

"Some people say 'poor you' because you don't get one very often, but I've always felt like I've got a special birthday and liked it even as a kid because I found it was something fun and different - and people remember it."

Birthday parties were more exciting during leap years when she was a child, Lennon said.

"My parents did make an effort so my real ones were a bit more of a big deal. They were the sort of proper ones, the special ones."

Leah is celebrating her second February 29 birthday this year; her mother Krystal had her...
Leah is celebrating her second February 29 birthday this year; her mother Krystal had her birthday yesterday. Photo: Supplied

Special time for mum and daughter 

Christchurch mother and daughter Krystal and Leah are also enjoying birthday celebrations, one day after the other.

Krystal marked her birthday yesterday, while Leah turns eight today, although her party had to be postponed because of a Covid-19 infection.

Leah told RNZ she saw the fun side of her unusual birthday.

"When my mum was pregnant with me, she wished for me to not be a ginger or born in a leap year, and guess what? She got both."

Krystal said she tried to hold on during labour until March 1, but her daughter arrived at 10.09pm on February 29 in 2016.

"We nearly got there, but not quite.

"It turned about to be a blessing because the 28th is my birthday, so for three years out of four I get to share my birthday with her. It makes the day even more special."

Krystal and Leah planned to spend the day at home watching movies and enjoying treats like waffles and cheesecake.

Octogenarian: 'I count it as my 21st'

As a February 29 baby, Kelvin Munro is this year celebrating only his 21st actual birth day since in the 80 years since 1944.

"I count it as my 21st, but the non-leap year years are just as good because when you consider when was I born, I was born 29 days after the start of February so that brings me into the first of March and I really wasn't born in March, so I take the two, I celebrate on both days which was a bonus."

He told RNZ's First Up programme growing up with this particular birthday was always a bit of an ice-breaker.

"My mother informed me many years later that I was born in a Devonport nursing home, and on that particular day there were three boys born and all the names start with K. There was Keith, Ken and Kelvin myself so that was very interesting to learn that there's someone out there running around that's had as much fun, hopefully as many fulfilling years as I have."

Munro said he has not come across many other people with February 29 birthdays.

"It's pretty rare you know, and it's amazing that that day in Auckland that there was three of us born."

His birthday won't be a traditional 21st celebration, there will be no yard glass and no mirrored key.

"Actually my son is coming down from Tairua and he's bringing his wife and his dog and we're going to have a meal down here at home at Whangamata and they're going to do all the cooking and I'll do all the eating."

Munro said it felt pretty unique to have a birthday on a leap day.

"It's something that you don't come across a lot and I was out to dinner last night with friends and they had never met anyone that was born on leap year they were quite thrilled with the whole thing."