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or - Johnny's Big Sister is a Leap Day baby

A true-ish story by Raenell Ochampaugh


Once there was a little boy named Johnny. Now Johnny had three sisters; a little one, a middle size one, and a big one.


Johnny was born in the second to the last month of the year, November. But ALL of Johnny’s sisters were born in the second month to the beginning of the year, February.


His little sister, Debbie, was born on February 6. His middle sister, Cindy, was born on February 25. And his big sister, Dawn, was born on February 29.


In February, all of Johnny’s sisters were so excited. They knew they were going to have a birthday that month.


Dawn thought her birthday would be first since she was the oldest, but on February 6 the family celebrated Debbie’s birthday.

Dawn thought that was odd. She was the oldest and thought her birthday should be first.


Then, on February 25 the family celebrated Cindy’s birthday. Dawn still thought it was very odd that her birthday didn’t come first.


It seemed pretty normal that Cindy’s birthday was in the middle because she was the middle sister. But Dawn thought she should have already had her birthday; First.


So, when the family celebrated Dawn’s birthday last, she went to the calendar to check out the order of things. She knew she was the oldest. So it only made sense, to her that her birthday should be first.


When Dawn pulled the calendar from the wall she noticed something very odd. So she looked again and it still looked very odd. She counted the days in February. There were only twenty-eight!


She showed the calendar to her parents. She asked them, “Wasn’t I born on February 29?” 


“Yes, you were,” they said.


“Well then, why isn’t it on the calendar?” Dawn exclaimed as she presented the family with the calendar showing February with only 28 days.


They all looked at the calendar and saw that she was right. Only 28 days were marked.

Dawn was so confused. Her birthday didn’t come first like she thought it should. It didn’t come last, and even worse, it wasn’t even ON the calendar!


“How come?” she thought to herself? Dawn looked at her parents “How come my birthday isn’t on the calendar like everyone else’s?” she asked.

"Debbie’s name is in the 6 box. Cindy's name is in the 25 box. And my name is in an EMPTY BOX! Where's my birthday!?"


Her parents tried to explain. “It is kind of confusing,” said her Dad. “But there is a very special reason the 29th is not on the calendar…yet.”

Johnny and all three of his sisters were surprised when their Dad said “yet”. They all wanted to know what was so special about why Dawn's birthday is not on the calendar. 


“February 29 is not on the calendar because it is not a Leap Year this year.” said their Mother. “February 29 is on the calendar every four years.” she finished.


“Why?” asked the children.


Their Mother continued, “Every four years is a Leap Year and Leap Day is February 29." Dawn got excited. “That’s my birthday!” she said.  But then suddenly she was sad.


“Why does my birthday only come every four years and everyone else’s birthday is every year?” she asked sadly. “That’s not fair.” 


“Well,” said their Dad, “Leap Year Day comes every four years because it’s responsible for keeping all the other days in line with the seasons.” He added, “That makes Leap Day the most important date on the calendar."


Johnny and his three sisters did not understand what was so special about that. What they didn’t understand is that people depend on the seasons and what dates are in each season.


Their Mother explained that Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter happen the same time every year because of Leap Day. Fruits and vegetables and flowers grow only in certain seasons and we need to know what to plant and when to plant it so it will grow.


"Think of it this way." explained their Mother. "You know how when you are swinging on a swing next to someone and you are swinging exactly together?"


The children giggled and nodded their heads. "It's all in the timing when we are swinging exactly together." Cindy proclaimed.


"Yes," said Mother, "Exactly. Well, the seasons are kind of like that."

The children furrowed their brows in confusion. Their mother continued, "The seasons happen at the same time each year. It's like they are swinging exactly together with the calendar."


"If we didn't have Leap Year Day, the seasons would not happen at the same time each year. The seasons and the calendar's timing would be off, like when you're not swinging at the exact same time anymore. If that happens, our holidays will end up in different seasons."


Well, the children soon realized how special Leap Year Day is and thought it was pretty cool that their sister was born on that day. 


Because Dawn was born on February 29, she is a Leap Day baby. She is happy to be a Leap Day baby, too. She now understands why her birthday is not on the calendar every year like other people’s birthdays.


And just because a Leap Day Baby’s birthday is not on the calendar every year does not mean they don’t get a birthday. They certainly do.


When it is not a Leap Year they can celebrate on February 28, because they were born on the last day of February. They can also celebrate on March 1st because they were born on the day after February 28. Some Leap Day babies celebrate on both days because they can!  When do you think Dawn celebrates her birthday when it's not on the calendar?
If she would like to, Dawn may join the birthday clubs that are for people whose birth date is not on the calendar every year. They're for people born on February 29, Leap Year Day.


They’re for Leap Day babies, like Johnny’s sister. 

© 1995 Raenell Dawn Ochampaugh


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