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Happy (real) birthday, Leaplings!

Panchali Sheth, Keersten Fitzgerald and Anjali Sharma are among some five million special people celebrating their quadrennial birthdays today.

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Sydney’s Keersten Fitzgerald marks a special birthday today. She turns 28, but her special celebration this past weekend had a 7th birthday theme.

Keersten’s a ‘leapling’, as leap day babies are called.

“My birthday party was great fun,” Keersten tells Indian Link. “We had tug-of-war, and other party games that seven-year-olds like.”

It’s kind of a recurring theme for Keersten’s birthday parties. For her 16th, she had a 4th-birthday theme.

Keersten Fitzgerald is celebrating her seventh birthday today (Source: Supplied)

Meanwhile Panchali Sheth, also of Sydney, turns 60 today. Or 15, you could say. She’s away in Fiji, celebrating with family.

“Yes I’m by the water, nursing a cocktail,” she tells Indian Link on the phone. “My husband’s right beside me, and my three daughters, their lovely partners and my six grandchildren have all travelled with us for my landmark birthday.”

Unbeknownst to her, a soul sister nearly 12,000 kms away is doing something very similar.

Anjali Sharma of New Delhi, also marking her 60th, is about to fly out to Goa with her husband, children and baby granddaughter, for a special celebration.

“My daughter who lives in the US has flown down just for this occasion with her brand new baby,” Anjali beams.

Keersten, Panchali and Anjali are among some five million people worldwide who are celebrating their real birthdays today. (That’s roughly 0.07% of the population).

And like most of these people, they’ve each been marking their birthdays on 28 February, in years when February only has 28 days.

Others celebrate on 1 March.

Leap day babies
Panchali Sheth turns 15 today (Source: Supplied)

(Some countries have actually stipulated this by law: in New Zealand, the official birthday for leaplings is 28 February in non-leap years; whereas in the UK it is 1 March: the date of birth remains 29 February in official documentation).

And some leaplings, thanks to specially instituted family traditions, start celebrating on 28 February and kick on till the end of 1 March.

Statistically speaking, it is a special occasion – because it only comes round quadrennially, and because the chances of being born on this day are 1 in 1461.

Panchali was very young when she figured out her birthday would not appear on the calendar every year.

“I had just started school so I would have been 6,” she recalls. “My dad told me it was because I was different to everybody else, and unique. I was happy his own birthday falls in February, so we had joint celebrations every year.”

Keersten cannot remember when she realised the significance (or absence) of her birthday, because “I was made to feel special from the beginning. I thought my birthday was quite cool – different.”

Anjali Sharma is 15 going on 60 (Source: Supplied)

For Anjali Sharma, it wasn’t until middle school that the realisation hit. A favourite family story comes from the day she was born.

“It was Holi on the 28th, and Mum wanted me to arrive on that day – because it’s an auspicious day and perhaps also because she wanted to avoid the 29th as birthdate! So she was extra active physically, in the hope that I would feel motivated to make my entry into the world. But no, it was 4 am on the 29th when I finally arrived!”

Like many other leaplings, Anjali doesn’t feel as though she’s missed anything by not celebrating a real birthday.

“I get a lot more attention on leap year birthdays – extended family from far and wide call, including my 90-year-old aunt this year, who never forgets. It’s a special occasion. Makes up for the other years!”

And that’s the overwhelming advice for other families with leap year babies.

“Definitely make them feel special,” says Anjali. “Tell them nobody’s ever going to forget your birthday – even those you may know in your distant circles.”

Panchali agrees. “I’d say, enjoy and celebrate being unique. Your uniqueness starts from your birth.”

“Yes, leap day babies must feel from the beginning that it’s a good thing,” Keersten adds. “We are special – it’s rare, so it is fun.”

The special quality of it all notwithstanding, there could be another side to it.

“The trouble, I feel,” remarks Anjali, “is that I can never lie about my age. It’s easy to catch me out!”

And Keersten reveals, “My mum has forbidden me to ride a motorcycle till I’m 16. And that means 64…”

READ ALSO: New Year Baby

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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