Local leapers celebrate rare Feb. 29 birthdays

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — February 29th doesn’t come around that often. For those born on Leap Day, today is a chance to celebrate their actual birthdays for the first time in four years.

Imagine blowing out your candles just once every four years. People born on Feb. 29, or “leapers,” make do.

“I was born Feb. 29th 1992.  And this year, I’m going to be 6-years-old,” says Ethan Thompson, who is actually 24.

Thompson is a mailman in Niagara Falls, and says finding a faux-birthday in between leap years is half the fun.

“My dad thought that it should be on the first, because that’s technically where the 29th would be, but my mom was always like keep it in the month so it was a debate my entire life whether it was the first or the 28th which made it kind of fun to distract me from the fact that I didn’t actually have a birthday,” he said.

88-year-old Joseph Bittar, of Buffalo, use to take advantage of his leap status.

“They say well, when do you celebrate your birthday otherwise? That’s the first question they’ll say, when do you celebrate your birthday?” he says. “I use to celebrate both days.”

The World War II and Korean War veteran says four years ago, his kids made sure he had a leap birthday to remember.

“They took us out to a restaurant, and while we were sitting in the restaurant, they brought out my present. They brought out this little that you put in a beer can that says you’re 21, old enough to drink now.”

In the U.S, around 200,000 people celebrate their birthday on Leap Day. Worldwide, there are about 5 million leapers.

Bittar says he knows “maybe three other people” with leap birthdays.

He usually spends his birthday with his wife of 61 years and their handful of grandchildren.

As he gets older, he says each Leap Day he celebrates becomes more special.

For Thompson, it’s a chance to be reflective, and gives cause for even bigger celebration.

“Obviously I’m excited about my birthday every year, but it’s not a day that’s there, says Thompson. “So, it is a little lackluster. So, every four years we really try to do as big as we can.”

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