Leap year is more than that Amy Adams movie and an excuse to make bad birthday jokes — unless you’re Ryan Reynolds, carry on with the funny ads, please. For those born on Leap Day, when Feb. 29 rolls around it can be a meaningful occasion for both leap year babies and their parents.
And not to give them a big head, but your little leaper should know how much the world is impacted by their birthday. Yes, 365 days is the most accepted length for a year, but that number is based on guesswork: it actually takes the Earth 365.2422 days to orbit around the sun. That smidge might seem tiny, but the difference can lead calendars to gradually become out-of-sync with the seasons. Now that’s a fact worth humblebragging about at recess.
But saving our society from chaos isn’t the only reason leap babies rule. If you’re a parent raising a leaper, here are some facts and traditions you can share with them:
They look dashing in green
Dressing leap babies as hoppy animals is a trend parents might want to jump on. One Pittsburgh hospital rang in Feb. 29 with newborns dressed in adorable knitted grasshopper costumes.
Other hospitals are dressing up leap babies as frogs, that come with equally cute lily pads.
The great thing about this tradition is that it can age with your little leaper. As they grow up, wearing frog- and grasshopper-themed shirts might transition to donning emerald tones when they want to honour their special day.
You have a cool bedtime story to tell them
Who needs princesses and dragons when you’ve got a nun and a dragon slayer?
The most popular folklore about leap year comes from a deal made by Ireland’s patron saints. The nun St. Brigit reportedly asked St. Patrick to permit women-led proposals, on account of complaints she’d been hearing. It’s seen as historically inaccurate (St. Brigit would have been too young), but can make for some fun re-telling if you lean into using wacky voices and over-the-top proposals.
But not every fourth year is a leap year
Your kid might end up skipping their leap year birthday ... in the year 2,100.
A leap year is often described as an occurrence every four years when an extra day is added to February, but there are exceptions. Century years won’t have Feb. 29 in their calendars, unless they can be divided by 400, the Farmer’s Almanac states.
There’s a special way to eat on leap day
In Taiwan, there’s a mouth-watering dish served to parents on leap day. Married daughters make pig trotter noodles so that their parents have good health for the year, the Evening Telegraph reports. Kids can have a blast helping in the kitchen for this recipe.
Nix on the pork? Some culinary traditions stick to a simple number theme that kids might enjoy; think a stack of four pancakes for breakfast or four granola bars for snack time.
There are other Leap Day food rules to follow. Canadian food blogger Maggie J suggests adding a “midnight dinner” to honour the holiday, where one adds an extra meal long after everyone’s asleep. Since this year’s leap day takes place on a Saturday, the late bedtime won’t leave them sleepy in school.
Leap year drinks exist, too
What do you get when you mix gin, sweet vermouth, orange liqueur, and lemon juice? The infamous leap year cocktail, a Prohibition-era drink responsible for many marriage proposals according to its inventor.
Parents can enjoy this concoction no problem, but a kid-friendly version they can enjoy might look like a citrus-laden fruit punch: one fresh-tasting drink includes lemonade, orange juice, and fresh fruits.
Warn them about IT issues
Beyond the jokes about their real age, leapers struggle with technology that sees their birth date as invalid. Vancouver resident and leaper Pete Brouwer told Reuters that his insurance company gave him trouble because their system didn’t recognize his birthday.
Known as the “leap year bug,” companies as big as Microsoft have suffered glitches, outages, and customer service problems because they failed to calculate a leap year properly.
You’ll want to keep an eye on this bug, as it might break your kid’s heart if they get forgotten on their special day. The Toys “R” Us birthday club caught flak for sending cards to kids enrolled in their program, except leap babies.
Give them a head-start on standing up for themselves
Whether they face teasing in school, scrutiny from those ignorant about leap years, or get hassled while travelling, they’ll likely encounter a lot of administrative problems. Some parents encourage their kids to work around this by choosing either Feb. 28 or March 1 as their “birthday” in these situations.
However, it might be worth using these hardships as teachable moments. Kids can learn to voice their truth when their birthday comes up negatively, which can be used as a stepping stone for being confident when dealing with bullies or injustice.
Watch: how to talk with your kids about standing up to a bully. Story continues below.
Who knows? They might decide to take up leaper advocacy as a cause they care about. The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies has fought against “leap baby discrimination” and offers free membership to anyone born on Feb. 29.
They have a rich history
If they’re ever in need of a fun history project idea, they’ll have tons of source material when it comes to the backstory for leap years.
Leap years were invented to account for bad math, but they weren’t always perfect. The longest recorded year lasted 445 days, otherwise known as “The Year of Confusion.” Julius Caesar designated 46 B.C. with extra days in order to correct misalignment caused by political corruption; Roman leaders royally screwed up their calendar, as some would add months in order to extend their reign.
Caesar’s math wasn’t up to snuff, leading to the creation of the Gregorian calendar, which we still follow today.