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Denair teen celebrates fourth birthday
leap year pic
Lynne and David Thompson decorate frog shaped cookies to celebrate Davids leap year birthday. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

Today, at long last, Turlock Christian High sophomore David Thompson is celebrating his fourth birthday. He isn’t some sort of child prodigy — he’s a leap year baby.

Though David has been alive for 16 years, he’s only been able to celebrate his birth on his actual birthday four times.

“I’ve explained it way too many times. Many people don’t believe me,” said the Denair teen about his every four years birthday. “I do like that it’s a special birthday, though.”

David is one of about 200,000 people in the United States – 5 million worldwide – who were born on Feb. 29, or leap day.

To keep calendars in sync with the seasons an extra day is added to the calendar every four years – known as leap year – except in years which are multiples of 100 and not also multiples of 400.

The timekeeping anomaly of the leap day has its roots in the 365-day calendar, compared to the 365.24-day period of the Earth’s rotation about the Sun. Without the leap day, the calendar and the seasons would shift by 24 days each century, moving the beginning of spring from March 20 to April 13 in just 100 years.

While explaining the intricacies of the Gregorian calendar to his friends and classmates has become tedious for David, he doesn’t really mind having a leap year birthday. As long as he gets a party, he doesn’t care what day he celebrates his birthday.

David’s mom, Lynne Thompson, said it was only confusing for him when he was younger.

“When he was five or six years old we were looking at the calendar and I flipped it over to February. I told him he has a birthday this month and he asked me, ‘Where is it?’ I told him, ‘Well, it doesn’t exist this year, but don’t worry we’ll still have a party.’ After that he was fine with it,” she said.

Many leap year babies have reported problems with computer systems that don’t recognize Feb. 29 as a valid date of birth. David hasn’t had many problems so far, though — except for Facebook.

David had to register with the social media site using a different birth date because Facebook doesn’t recognize Feb. 29. Because of this programming flaw, David was inundated with birthday wishes on Tuesday.

“I had to write a message to everyone that my birthday was really on Wednesday,” he said.

He also only gets birthday coupons from restaurants and ice cream stores every four years, instead of annually like other customers. But these minor inconveniences don’t bother David. He likes having a special birthday.

In fact, he’s already looking forward to his next actual birthday in four years.

“I’ll be the only five year old with a driver’s license,” he joked.