Bonny Fleming has always known that her leap year birth date is a calendar correction.
But it was just last year, when Fleming was choosing to celebrate her Feb. 29 birthday on March 1, that she realized everyone’s birthday also is affected by the flaw in our Gregorian calendar system that gets remedied by adding an extra day every four years.
“It’s just more obvious for people like me who are born on Feb. 29,” she said.
Fleming begins with a basic astronomy lesson to explain her birthday theory. Her dad first devised it to help her answer the perennial question that all who are born on leap year hear: What day do you celebrate it when it’s not a leap year?”
Most people think one year equals 365 days. But it actually takes 365 days, and about six hours, for the earth to circle the sun once, hence the need for a “leap year” every fourth year.
In order to help his daughter decide whether to celebrate on Feb. 28 or March 1 in non-leap years, Bill Fleming came up with the six-hour rule.
“You add six hours to the time of your birth each year,” she said.
Born at 7:47 a.m. on the last day of February 1980, the six-hour rule moves Bonny’s actual birth in subsequent years to 1:47 p.m. on Feb. 28, then to 7:47 p.m. on Feb. 28 and, finally, every third year, to 1:47 a.m. on March 1, before Feb. 29 rolls around again to reset it.
“What I discovered last year as I was thinking about this is that this actually applies to everyone, because your birthday does the same thing,” she said. “Everyone has this six-hour rule, so depending on the time of day you were born, your birthday is actually the next day some years.”
Leap year brings it all back into astronomical alignment for everyone, she said.
For her 21st birthday, she tried to make her six-hour rule theory work in her favor, without success.
“I actually went around to five different bars on Feb. 28 and tried to convince the bartenders of it. But because my driver’s license said my birthday was on March 1 because there was no Feb. 29 that year, I couldn’t get any bartenders to go along with me.”
In reality, the birthday celebration question doesn’t mean much to Fleming.
“I usually take the week,” said the Rapid City photographer and graphic designer who is employed at Asio Studio in digital marketing.
Fleming loves to throw parties, “especially when they’re for myself.” She celebrates the passing of each year, but admitted the once-every-four-years arrival of her actual birth date calls for a bigger splash.
This year, which will be the 32-year-old’s 8th birthday, is extra special for her daughter, Anna. The 9-year-old has now experienced more “birthdays” than her mom has.
Despite the frequent sympathy she gets for her dearth of birthdays, Fleming feels lucky to be a leap yearer. They all share a unique bond and get extra attention once every four years, she said.
She credits her mom, Claire Scholz, with making it happen.
“Feb. 29 was actually her due date. I think she willed it because it was so neat,” she said.
Fleming reserves her birthday sympathies for people like her brother, whose birthday falls on Dec. 24.
“I actually feel more sorry for people like that. Their birthdays kind of get lost.”
Contact Mary Garrigan at 394-8424 or email@example.com