Almanac - February 29

Jimmy Dorsey 1904-1957



A person who is born on February 29 may be called a "leapling" or a "leap year baby". In non-leap years, some leaplings celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1, while others only observe birthdays on the authentic intercalary dates.

For legal purposes, their legal birthdays depend on how different laws count time intervals. In England and Wales, the legal birthday of a leapling is March 1 in common years. The same applies in Hong Kong as well (see Leap Years, above). In Taiwan (Republic of China) and in New Zealand, the legal birthday of a leapling is February 28 in common years. So in England and Wales or in Hong Kong, a person born on February 29, 1996 will have legally reached 18 years old on March 1, 2014; in Taiwan and in New Zealand he or she legally becomes 18 on February 28, 2014.

"If a period fixed by weeks, months, and years does not commence from the beginning of a week, month, or year, it ends with the ending of the day which proceeds the day of the last week, month, or year which corresponds to that on which it began to commence. But if there is no corresponding day in the last month, the period ends with the ending of the last day of the last month.[5]"

There are many instances in children's literature where a person's claim to be only a quarter of their actual age turns out to be based on counting their leap-year birthdays. A similar device is used in the plot of Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance: As a child, Frederic was apprenticed to a band of pirates until the age of 21. Now, having passed his 21st year, he leaves the pirate band and falls in love. However, it turns out that the pirate indenture says that his apprenticeship does not end until his 21st birthday, and since he was born on February 29, that day will not arrive until he is in his eighties. As such, he must leave his fiancée and return to the pirates. It may be worked out from the opera's dialogue[6] that Frederic's birthday is February 29, 1852 thus making the opera set in 1873. (This assumes that Frederic is aware that 1900 will not be a leap year. If not, the dates would be later by four years.)

The only notable person known to have both been born and died on February 29 was Sir James Wilson (1812–1880), Premier of Tasmania.

Other notable persons born on February 29:


Holidays and observances


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