Leap year adjusts calendar when leaplings celebrate birthdays


Christine Lightner-Orvis of Port St. John is a leapling, who was born on leap day, Feb. 29.

Jennifer Torres

As a child, Christine Lightner-Orvis of Port St. John said she was teased by classmates who often called her “a baby” — a situation not helped by the fact that the local newspaper wrote an article headlined: “Christine Celebrated her 8th Birthday Today Even Though She’s only 2.”

Born on Feb. 29, Lightner-Orvis is one of approximately 187,000 leaplings in the U.S. today — otherwise known as a leap year baby — born on a day that only comes around once every four years.

“Of course, as I moved into adulthood, and then being a parent, it became like a phenomenon to co-workers and my children’s friends and families,” Lightner-Orvis said. “They all thought it was so cool that I was a leap year baby.”

Our calendar consists of 365 days, but it takes 365.2421 days for the Earth to orbit the sun. Not far off — but over time those hours add up. If not for the additional day, Farmer’s Almanac says the seasons could be off by 25 days every 100 years — meaning snow in July and beach weather in December.

So, in 46 B.C. under the reign of Julius Caesar, the 12-month, 365-day calendar was adjusted to include a leap day every four years on Feb. 29.

But even this alteration left an extra 11 minutes each year. So, in 1582, the Gregorian Calendar attempted to make up for the surplus by having a leap day nearly every four years — excluding certain years based on a mathematical equation.  The last leap year was in 2016 and the next will be in 2024.

Experts say the current calendar is closer to the mark — but still a little off — and might eventually need to be addressed again one day in the future.

“I love saying I’ll turn 15 this year,” Lightner-Orvis said. “I like letting friends and coworkers know, I’ll always be younger than you.”

Also celebrating that day, Karen Bavis-Pauplis, 56, of Ashland, New Hampshire.

“I’ll be turning 14 this year,” she said. “I love the fact that I can say all three of my kids are older than I am.”