The roots of leap year reach back to the reign of Julius Caesar. And while the calendar has undergone tweaks throughout the centuries and remains far from perfect — every 3,030 years, the calendar will be off by one day — that doesn’t deter leap year babies from enjoying their unique birthday.
“I love having a leap year birthday,” said Christina Gonzales, 36. “It’s something that makes you unique. You have a story to tell, especially being a teacher. The kids always get a kick out of them being close to the age of their teacher."
Gonzales, who teaches third grade at Sovereign Avenue School in Atlantic City, joked she’ll be turning 9 years old — the same age as her students — and incorporated it into a lesson about leap year.
“It's such a great teachable moment,” she said. “It reinforces multiplication and division skills as they try to guess my age. And teaching them the history of leap year supports what they learn in social studies and science.”
Aside from making leap year a teachable moment, the Ventnor resident celebrates in a big way every four years with vacations and fancy dinners.
But while she loves having a leap year birthday, not everything is as easy as cake.
“If you're signing up for something online, there isn't always the 29th,” she said. “Even if you select the year, it won't show up sometimes, so sometimes I have to put the birthday that's not mine.”
She is, however, already thinking of her next leap year birthday, when she will turn 40.
“The wheels are turning a little bit,” she said. “I definitely want to have a party, a big party. I guess I have four years to work on that.”
For Eleanor Blumenthal, of Egg Harbor Township, it's a milestone leap year. She is turning 100.
“I don’t feel 100,” she said with a laugh. “I see people at the (senior) center, and they look older than me. I feel maybe 80."
Having a leap year birthday never bothered her. In fact, she embraces it.
“I think I felt special," she said. "One way or another, we did celebrate my birthday. I’ve always been low key.”
She's still active at 100. In fact, she still dances. She doesn’t plan on dancing at her 100th birthday celebration, a family dinner at Atlantic City Country Club. “But if there’s music, maybe I’ll shuffle along,” she said.
The advice she’d give other leap year babies to live long enough to see their 25th leap year birthday? Just keep going.
“People ask me all the time,” she said. “Just keep going, keep moving. Think positive, if possible, and everything in moderation.”
Many more leap years to go
Brian Cox was born first by one minute, which he reminds his twin, Bella, often. They typically celebrate their birthdays together and decide together how they want to celebrate.
“And we’re not very good at sharing,” Bella said. “But it’s fine. We share friends, kind of.”
The Galloway twins will turn 12 on Saturday and will have two parties — one with friends and one with family. That’s typically how they celebrate each year, but they observe their birthdays on both Feb. 28 and March 1 in between leap years.
This year's celebration is typical for them, but they are having two cakes. Brian will have ice cream cake, and Bella will have red velvet.
“And on our second birthday we had two cakes,” Bella said. “Not when we were 2 years old, when we were four.”
Two cakes, two parties, leap year or not, the twins find they still have to explain to their friends the difference when it comes to having a leap year birthday.
“Most of them don’t know what it is, so we usually have to explain it to them,” Bella said.
“A lot of explaining,” Brian added.
“It’s Feb. 29, and it only comes every four years,” Bella said. “I don’t know why.”
“It’s the revolution of the Earth,” Brian said.
Their next leap year birthday, they’ll be turning 16, which begged the question, who do they think will be the better driver?
Brian raised his hand, which quickly turned into a friendly back-and-forth between the two.
“Definitely me,” Bella argued. “I’m just better at everything.”
“I’m better at go-karts,” Brian said. “I beat her every time at go-karts.”
“That’s because you drive faster,” Bella told her brother. “I’m safer. I drive better."
First leap year birthday
This is the first leap year birthday 8-year-old Mays Landing resident Reagan Hallman will remember.
When it’s not leap year, she, too, celebrates on Feb. 28 and March 1 and gets presents on both days. Eileen Hallman said the family usually celebrates Reagan’s birthday the whole week every year and has a party and cake.
This year, she’s having a sleepover with four friends where they’ll eat pizza, cake and ice cream and watch movies. She’s having a pink unicorn cake and unicorn ice cream — cake-flavored ice cream with purple frosting swirl and candy confetti pieces — in honor of her favorite mythical creature. She also asked her mom to make a large chocolate chip cookie cake.
Her older brother, Patrick, won’t be attending the sleepover.
“I didn’t want him to come,” Reagan said.