Thursday, Feb. 29, is a Leap Day, which occurs every four years

NORTH COUNTY — Yesterday, Feb. 29, we are receiving an additional day in our yearly calendar — yes, it is Leap Day. Every four years in the Gregorian calendar, a 29th day is added to February to account for the Earth taking 365.2421 days to orbit the sun and not a flat 365. 

According to the History Channel, there are about 5 million people worldwide who have a Leap Day birthday. Atascadero News/Paso Robles Press found one local “Leapling” (Leap Day baby) who will be celebrating their 40th birthday — or their 11th Leap Day birthday, depending on how you want to count it — this Thursday.

Chris Wesney of Templeton was born on Leap Day in 1984 at San Luis Obispo General Hospital. Growing up, having a Leap Day birthday was a fun “party trick” if he wanted to throw out a fun fact about himself.


“It was always an interesting factoid,” says Wesney, who is an Atascadero High School graduate. 

On Wesney’s mother’s side of the family, he is a fifth-generation resident of North County. His great-grandfather, Paul Merrick, was a San Luis Obispo County sheriff who purchased and revived the Pozo Saloon in the 1960s.

On non-Leap Years, Wesney would have to celebrate his birthday on March 1 because his mom said the day before would not be enough time. And she was right, since, legally, Leaplings have to wait until March 1 especially for critical birth years like a 21st birthday.

However, now that he is older, a birthday celebration or dinner comes whenever it’s convenient. 

In a 1992 Atascadero News article, Wesney was featured alongside another Leapling, Lacy Martin, who was celebrating her 16th birthday that Leap Year. That year, Wesney planned to celebrate his eighth birthday by bowling. His first choice was roller skating, but his best friend had a broken leg at the time, so a compromise was met. 

Today, Wesney is married with three kids and a collection of animals on their property in Templeton. He adds, “Life’s been pretty good.”

Throughout the years, society has come up with some traditions for Leap Day. 

According to the History Channel, “In fifth-century Ireland, St. Bridget lamented to St. Patrick that women were not allowed to propose marriage to men. So legend has it that St. Patrick designated the only day that does not occur annually, Feb. 29, as a day on which women would be allowed to propose to men.”

In Britain, they took the Irish custom and gave it a twist, “if a man rejected a woman’s proposal, he owed her a debt of several pairs of fine gloves, perhaps to hide the fact that she did not have an engagement ring.”

In Greece, though, it is considered bad luck to get married on Leap Day. 

Wesney notes that maybe every five years or so, he meets another Leapling and says, “It’s not super common, but we are out there.”

Whether you are celebrating a birthday or not, enjoy the bonus 24 hours — you won’t get it again for another four years. 

Feature Image: This archived Atascadero News article was written about two local “Leaplings,” including an about-to-turn-8 Chris (Wesney), celebrating their birthdays on Leap Day in 1992. Photo provided by Chris Wesney