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How Butler residents celebrate Leap year birthdays

The lore behind ‘leaplings’
Margaret Moore, a leap year baby, sits in her home in New Castle on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

Despite being born in 1932, lifelong Butler resident Margaret Moore will just be celebrating her 23rd birthday on Thursday, Feb. 29.

While Moore technically has been on earth for 92 spins around the sun, she is one of the few people who can say they celebrate their actual birthday once every four years.

Moore, along with only about 5 million people worldwide, was born during a leap year. A leap year is when the calendar year contains an additional day compared to a common year. People born on this rare occasion are often affectionately referred to as “leaplings.”

Related Article: How Butler ‘leaplings’ feel about Leap year

For “leaplings” like Moore, the one-every-four-years birthday can be both a blessing and a minor inconvenience. Leaplings can find themselves encountering people not knowing what a leap year is, deciding whether to celebrate in February or March or as in Moore’s case, have a hard time keeping track of their actual age.

“I don’t keep track of my age,” Moore “After all these years, birthdays just come and go.”

Margaret Moore, a leap year baby, sits in her home in New Castle on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Leaping around the sun

Amanda Iwaniec, director of theater experiences for the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, said having a “leap year” is necessary to keep the earth’s calendar aligned with our rotation around the sun.

“What many people don’t think of is that our calendar on earth and the calendar in space don’t actually naturally sync up,” said Iwaniec. “It actually takes 365.25 days for the earth to orbit the sun one time.”

By adding a leap day, the calendar is able to stay aligned with the earth’s revolution around the sun.

“This solution was to add an additional day every four years,” she said. “That kind of solution accounted for the extra 23 hours, 15 minutes and four seconds that are not accounted for in a year.”

“If we didn’t have a leap year, you probably wouldn’t notice it in the first couple of years,” Iwaniec said. “But within a hundred years it would actually shifts the when the equinoxes and the solstices happen.”

Seasons like summer, which official begins in the middle of June would end happening later in the year as time moved on, Iwaniec said.

“People in our time would likely not notice drastic changes, but there would be a time where you would have a really big disruption in our seasons,” she said.

The science of celebrating

As for when a leapling should celebrate their birthday on non-leap years, Iwaniec’s scientific opinion is that it should be left up to the families.

“For people that have that designation, they call it ‘leaplings’ affectionately” Iwaniec said. “A lot of times they get to celebrate their birthday on whichever day it feels best for them.”

And while in certain cultures having a birthday on leap year may be considered bad luck, Iwaniec said she believes that “leaplings” have a lot to celebrate.

“Because it is a rare occasion to celebrate, it kind of gives you the freedom to make up your own rules a little bit and make it more special of a day,” she said.

Moore said growing up, she always celebrated her birthday on Feb. 28 when it was not a leap year.

Moore’s daughter, Gloria Bromley, of New Castle, said she typically tries to keep the tradition of celebrating her mother’s birthday in February during off years.

“It’s always the 28th,” Moore said. “Unless I miss it, then I make sure we celebrate it March 1st.”

Fun with the time slip

Melissa Bowser, who grew up in Petrolia, will celebrate her 14th birthday while turning 56 this leap year. She said having the ability to have two different ages can come in handy.

“I tell people I’m turning 56,” Bowser said. “But I tell them that I’m on child labor laws.”

Another advantage to having a leap year birthday is the option to celebrate on more than one day.

“I make my husband celebrate on the 28th and March 1,” she said. “We celebrate for 48 hours because I can’t make up my mind.”

Jennifer Fester, of Butler Township, will be celebrating her 11th birthday while turning 44 in Las Vegas. She said she enjoys having a leap year birthday because it makes her feel unique.

“As I get older, I realize how special it is to have a leap year birthday,” Fester said. “I’m like one in 1,400, so I’m definitely special.”

Having a leap year birthday is not all fun and games, Fester said. There are some inconveniences that occur due to having a birthday once every four years.

“Anytime you have to fill out a form online you have to put in the year that you were born first,” Fester said. “Usually it goes month, date then year, but I have to start at the year so my date shows up. It’s a weird thing that you never get used to.”

Feb. 29 does not have to be just a day for leaplings to celebrate their birthday. Iwaniec believes the extra day calls for celebration from everyone.

“Embrace the day,” Iwaniec said. “Make it a bonus day for your February and a great kick off for March.”

Related Article: How Butler ‘leaplings’ feel about Leap year
Margaret Moore, a leap year baby, sits in her home in New Castle on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Margaret Moore, a leap year baby, sits in her home in New Castle on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

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