Leap day babies celebrated, but forgotten

Story highlights

Leap day is an extra day added to the end of February every four years

There are about 4 million leap day babies in the world

The chances of being born on leap day are one in 1,461

CNN  — 

Sherri Riddle learned how to drive, cast her first vote, bought alcohol, graduated from high school, got married, and landed a job at a bank all before the age of 10.

No, she’s not a child prodigy. She’s a leap year baby.

Riddle was born on February 29, 1968, but didn’t know she had a rare birthday until years later. She’s one of 4 million individuals born on leap day – the extra day added at the end of February once every four years.

“I love my birthday,” said Riddle, who explained that she’s “not a fan of the ordinary.” She goes all out for her quadrennial birthdays. In past years, the Bridgetown, New Jersey, resident has taken impromptu trips to Manhattan or Atlantic City, rocked out at back-to-back Jon Bon Jovi concerts, and has even been to a Martha Stewart show with 200 fellow leap day babies.

“It’s an ‘anything goes’ type day,” she added. “I may have intentions to do one thing and then end up doing something totally different.”

But Riddle didn’t always enjoy being a leap day baby. As a child, her birthday was more of a tease than anything else. She was raised by her grandparents, and it was difficult for them to throw her extravagant birthdays when she was younger. Every leap year birthday would be a small celebration with cake and dinner at home, and the three non-birthdays in the middle were nothing too special, she said.

“When you’re a kid, you see kids who have other things that you don’t, and it singles you out,” she explained. “Since I’ve gotten older, I have more fun to make up for.”

Leap day challenge: Take a leap for iReport

The chances of being born on leap day are slim – 1 in 1,461. Those born on leap day, call them special or unlucky, have to wait every four years to enjoy an actual calendar birthday.

Leap day twins Krista Smith and Jason Reese, who are 40 – or 10, depending on how you look at it – have always enjoyed their quadrennial birthdays.

Even as adults, Smith and Reese try to spend February 29 together and make each one count, often with party themes that correspond to the number of actual birthdays they’ve celebrated. “As an adult I have celebrated my leap year birthdays by having a roller-skating party when we turned 7 and a Hello Kitty slumber party when I turned 8,” Smith shared on iReport.

The twins are finally hitting double digits this year – and it’s a big deal. They’re celebrating the occasion on a Caribbean cruise with about 30 family members and friends.

Some leap year babies don’t enjoy their quadrennial status as much. Jacob Jacob (yes, that’s his real name), of Atlanta, feels like his birthday is forgotten more often than not, especially in an age where most people remember birthdays thanks to Facebook reminders.

“One year, only four people wished me a happy birthday, three of which included my mother, father, and brother,” he said.

“The best way to explain how I celebrate my birthday is to first describe how I normally don’t celebrate it,” explained Jacob, who will celebrate his seventh calendar birthday this year. “For three-fourths of my life, I get a two-day window from February 28 to March 1 for friends and family to wish me a happy birthday. To this day, no one can really agree on what day it should be.”

Off-year birthdays are pretty “uneventful,” so he keeps the celebrations minimal, he said.

Like Jacob, Camille Kesler of Highland, Utah, has had her share of forgotten birthdays. “On the off years, a lot of people forget my birthday,” she said.

On the leap years, however, she says she gets bombarded with e-mails from long-lost friends. “A lot of people will come out of the woodwork and send me e-mails because they remember they had a friend who had a leap year birthday,” she said. On her most recent official birthday, she printed out all the e-mails and turned them into a book.

Despite the unrecognized birthdays, Kesler says she absolutely loves being a leap year baby. “One of my favorite things, and it might be kind of silly,” she laughed, “is when people ask ‘What’s a unique thing about you?’ It’s a pretty fun thing to say: ‘I’m the only person a lot of people know born on a leap (day).’”

Kesler is especially unique. Her father was born on leap day, too, and she’s due at any moment to give birth to a son. She and her husband have their fingers crossed, hoping their son will be a third-generation leap year baby.

“We didn’t really plan that we’re going to have this baby near leap year,” Kesler explained. “When I finally got pregnant and realized when my due date was, I was like ‘whoa.’”

Kesler thinks it would be great if she can extend the bond she has with her father to her unborn son. She and her father have always made a point to celebrate their February 29 birthdays together. In 2008, they had a basketball-themed birthday party. They boastfully took to the court and played ball in their custom-made “Leap Year Legends – 29” jerseys.

“It’s extra cool because I celebrate it with my dad,” she said.

“I hope the baby is as excited about leap day,” Kesler said hopefully. “It’s just kind of a funny coincidence. It’s become like a family tradition.”

Update: Kesler barely made it in time to the hospital on February 28 to deliver her son at 9:20 p.m. She joked that he probably didn’t want to miss out on birthdays in non-leap years. Still the best present I could have asked for!”