For Emirati mother Amina, Thursday is very special. She will be organising her daughter Arwa’s first ever birthday party. It is the first time that the 8-year-old, born on February 29, will be celebrating her birthday on its actual day along with her friends. “She was born in 2016,” said Amina. “In 2020, the threat of Covid was already quite prevalent so I had to cancel all the celebrations I had planned for her in nursery. This year, she is finally getting to celebrate her birthday.”

For leap day babies, or leaplings, being born on February 29, may mean four times fewer birthdays, but some claim it is the key to eternal youth. For others, it is a reason to party four times as hard during their birthday.

Amina said her daughter is very excited about her upcoming birthday. “We have already booked the space out at Sharjah Ladies Club,” she said. “We have bought decorations and balloons and invited all her friends. She is so excited about her big day.”

With the chance of babies being born on a leap day at one in around 1,500, there are an estimated five million leaplings in the world today.

Taking the day off

Much like Arwa, 32-year-old Vinay is also excited to celebrate his birthday after eight years. To mark the occasion, he has taken the day off work. “Every year I see my friends getting free things for their birthdays and I wish I could get them too,” he said. “I have prepared a list of all the places that give freebies and I will be going around collecting them.”

Vinay said that the upside of having his birthday come just once every four years is that the celebrations are big. “In 2016, I think I got three cakes throughout the day,” he recalled. “People pull all the stops to make sure that I have a special day. In fact in my circles, I am called the leap year boy. I love it.”

This year, it is even more for special for Vinay because it is his first birthday after getting married. “I got married 1.5 years ago and this will be the first time I get to celebrate with my wife on my actual birthday,” he said. “So I am excited to have a good day.”

A special day

For Rima Rafi, February 29 is special because it is the day she gets to celebrate her best friend Amal Razak. “We have known each other since grade 7 in school and now we are studying medicine together here in Ras Al Khaimah,” she said. “Ever since we met 12 years ago, I have been making sure that she has a very special day.”

This year, Rima and her group of six friends have planned something special for Amal. “We have planned a cake, bouquet and other surprises,” she said. “Since it comes only once in four years, we really go all out to make it memorable.”

According to Rima, during the other years, they have very subdued celebrations. “We are not usually big birthday celebrations kind of people,” she said. “During the three years in between, we wish her either on Feb 28 or March 1 and that is why the fourth year is always so important to us.”

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