February 29: It’s an extra day that tends to go unnoticed by most and even scrutinized by some. But for many leaplings — 200,000 in the United States and 5 million worldwide who are born on Feb. 29, Leap Day — it’s an oddity that brings along the chance to finally celebrate their official date of birth.
A day adapted by Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. and designed to correct a defect in the calendar that would otherwise put the seasons out of sync, Leap Day is embraced by those who relish in the uniqueness of their birthdays.
So we sent out a calling to our Brainerd Dispatch readers in search for Leap Day babies to share their stories, even finding a Feb. 29 wedding anniversary that would be hard to forget.
A long awaited sweet 16 party
In Jill Keehr’s family there are not one, but two Leap Day birthdays with her mom, Janice Koosmann, and her son, Dominic, both born on Feb. 29. This year marked her mom’s official “Sweet 16” in which Keehr and her five siblings celebrated with a surprise birthday party over the weekend.
“My mom (who was born in 1948) always joked that she wanted a sweet 16 party so we decided to give her just that,” said Keehr, who lives in Little Falls. “She was definitely surprised and we all had a lot of fun.”
To make Koosmann’s birthday even more unusual, Keehr had her son Dominic four years ago on the same date, as he gets set to celebrate his “first” birthday this year.
Unexpected leap day surprise
It was just a bit before noon in 2004 when Tina Burgstaler felt the familiar pain she had with the birth of her three other children. Only this time, there was no time. Burgstaler gave birth to her daughter, Karena, that Leap Day on the bathroom floor of their Aitkin family home.
“We all joked about me having the baby on Leap Day,” said Burgstaler. “And needless to say it made for the most memorable Leap Day of my life. I guess she wanted a Leap Day birthday, too.”
Because Karena was born before noon and Burgstaler has another daughter with a March birthday, the Burgstaler’s celebrate the eight-year-old’s birthday Feb. 28 each year her actual birthday doesn’t roll around.
Double the leap year fun
There is a 1 in 33 chance of being born a twin and an even slimmer chance — one in 1,461 — of being born on Leap Day. Tom and Terry Larson defy both odds. The twin brothers from Cass Lake officially turn “20” this year, born Feb. 29, 1932. Asked when they choose to celebrate their special day, Tom said it doesn’t make a difference, sometimes mixing it up depending on the year.
“The only year it mattered was an actual Leap Year,” said Tom. “The other years never really were the same.”
Excited for an ‘actual birthday’
That’s exactly how Hunter Nash of Brainerd feels about the chance to celebrate his Leap Year birthday this year. The 12-year-old (who turns “3”) has never made a big deal about no “real birthday” according to his stepmom, Becky, and the family usually celebrates his birthday on Feb. 28. This year she said Hunter is pretty excited for his actual birthday, allowing him to pick what he wants to do to celebrate.
A favorite birthday celebration
For Vern Broughton, the fact that he didn’t have an official birthday to celebrate each year made it more fun for him and his family.
“It was one of the family’s favorite birthdays to celebrate,” said Broughton, born on Leap Day in 1936. “We tried to figure out ways to celebrate with no real birthday, but really I delighted in every non-Leap Year birthday even more.”
Broughton — who was born and raised in Southwest Minnesota but worked at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center for the past 18 years —said the Leap Day birthday seemed to bring his family together for a big celebration each year that the day actually rolled around. This year, Broughton said he has already received cards, each with its own interesting statistic about Leap Day births, including that “when a baby is born on Leap Day, the physician sometimes asks the parents to choose to add Feb. 28 or March 1 to the birth certificate.”
Always something to joke about
While it may only be a day long celebration each Feb. 29, for Keith Jarvis the fun that his birthdate brings him year-round is well worth it.
“I got my drivers license at 4-years-old, graduated high school at 4 1/2-years-old and got married at 7,” said Keith jokingly. “I have been working for 26 years but I am only 12 and often times I joke with my boss that he’s breaking child labor laws with that one.
“It’s something that I like to joke around about and have some fun with.”
Jarvis’ mother was induced on Leap Day in 1964 in Staples in order for his dad to be there for the birth. Jarvis, who now lives in Motley, also added that typically his birthday is celebrated March 1 because “I was born after Feb. 28.”
One year of marriage has felt like four
Tina Pierce said she is excited to celebrate her first anniversary with her husband Matt. The hitch? The couple has been married since 2008. The Pierce’s, who used to live in Nisswa before moving to Detroit Lakes recently, were wed on Lake Hubert on Feb. 29, giving them their first official anniversary this Leap Day.
“For the past three years, we’ve been celebrating for most of the week since we don’t have a particular day to focus on,” Pierce said in an email. “This year, since it was our big year, we went to Costa Rica and that’s going to be our plan from now on, to take a big trip every four years and renew our vows.”