North Hills Bristal Assisted Living resident Lotte Higgins, born on leap day in 1940, celebrates her "21st" birthday. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Anthony Florio, Rick Kopstein; Photo Credit: Lotte Higgins

For Christina Romano, 35, of Oakdale, growing up with a Feb. 29 birthday came with awkward explanations.

At an early age, teachers were confused when she shared that she has “two birthdays.” When applying for her learner’s permit at age 15, a Department of Motor Vehicles employee was unsure if Romano was eligible to be approved.

“I never really got the birthday recognition that everybody else did,” she said. Facebook would skip notifying her friends of her birthday on an off year. 

“It wasn't on the calendar when you're a little kid in elementary school looking for your birthday day,” echoed Jacob Lisgorsky, 31, who grew up in Roslyn, and lives in Manhattan. He joked that when he’s 54, he may throw another bar mitzvah, but as he’s gotten older, Feb. 29 is “just another birthday.”

When you’re born on leap day, your fourth birthday could be considered your first, and so on, leaving families to navigate when and how to celebrate milestones in their own ways. 

A leap year of 2024 milestones

For Cole Seeley, of Hauppauge, born on Feb. 29, 2020, the gap in time works out nicely. In 2021, the world was still keeping its social distance during the pandemic and he didn’t get to have a big birthday celebration.

This year, Cole turns 4 and will be guest of honor at a “first birthday” party courtesy of La La Land, a children's play place in Babylon, on his real birth date. It will be his first kids birthday party with friends; about 20 people are expected to attend, including some registered members of the public, said his mother, Sarah Seeley, 36, an account manager.

La La Land owner Christina Sciuto said she was inspired to offer the free party because “leap year babies are exceptionally unique and rare.” The La La Land party was offered to any child born on leap day — a “leapling” — but the Seeleys were the only leap year family to respond, Sciuto said.

Sarah and Jake Seeley’s son, Cole, is a leap year...

Sarah and Jake Seeley’s son, Cole, is a leap year baby turning 4. Credit: Photographybytianamarie.com

That doesn’t surprise Seeley, who said she appreciates the party in honor of her son. “I don’t know anyone who was born on leap year,” she said. “It makes him a little special.”

In North Hills, another milestone birthday will be celebrated Feb. 29. Lotte Higgins, 83, a resident at the village's Bristal Assisted Living, plans to celebrate her “21st” birthday with a bang.

The Bristal employees will throw their resident “leaper” a Roaring '20s-themed party, where all will enjoy a leap year cocktail created at London’s Savoy Hotel in 1928: a concoction of gin, sweet vermouth, Grand Marnier and lemon juice.

Lotte Higgins, left, at age 21, will celebrate her "21st"...

Lotte Higgins, left, at age 21, will celebrate her "21st" leap year birthday Feb. 29. Credit: Lotte Higgins

Born in 1940, Higgins grew up in Middle Village, Queens, graduated from Newtown High School in Queens in 1957, and attended Hunter College in Manhattan.

The 21st birthday party is one of many Feb. 29 parties Higgins has celebrated in the past, she said, to make up for all the times people forget about her true birthday.

Higgins is the only resident to have celebrated the rare birthday in the history of all Bristal Living communities, said Loudjina Auguste, the executive director of The Bristal at North Hills. While Higgins is grateful for the love and celebration from staff and residents, she feels like any other person. “I don't feel any different, really,” said Higgins. “I'm a person celebrating a birthday; it's just that.”

A 'very special' leap day baby'

To some leap day adults, having a Feb. 29 birthday means you’re part of a distinguished group.

From the moment she was born, Nancy Wayne, 67, of East Quogue, was told she was unique. Doctors that delivered Wayne on Feb. 29, 1956, gifted her mother with a bracelet that said she was a “very special little baby.”

On a non-leap year, Wayne celebrates her birthday on Feb. 28. But when Feb. 29 rolls around, her birthday deserves “a bigger present.” In 2020, at age 60 — or 16 — she had a Sweet 16-themed party to celebrate her birthday and her retirement from NBC, where she worked as an interior designer at 30 Rock.

For expectant parents with Feb. 29 due dates, Wayne says to welcome it.

“I recommend being born on leap year because I think it makes you feel special right from the start,” she said. “We all need to feel special.”

Dr. Victor R. Klein, an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancy at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, said parents who have a choice will avoid having a scheduled cesarean section on leap day. “I can’t remember in 40 years a patient who says, ‘I want to deliver on leap day.’” They don’t favor the idea of not being able to celebrate on the actual birthday each year, he said.

Kayla Albu, 28, a radiology technician from Queens, will have...

Kayla Albu, 28, a radiology technician from Queens, will have a planned C-section on Feb. 29, which will make her and her husband, Stefano, parents of a “leapling.” Credit: Kayla Albu

Kayla Albu, 28, a radiology technician from Ozone Park, Queens, and her husband, Stefano, 31, a chef, are the exception. They purposely chose for their first child, whom they plan to name Leilani, to be born on Feb. 29 this year at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

Kayla’s due date is March 7, but her doctors wanted to schedule her for a C-section for medical reasons. The first available date was Feb. 29.

She called the choice to have the birth date “a once in a lifetime thing.” The family will celebrate either Feb. 28 or March 1 on the off years. “Every four years, that would make her birthday extra special,” Kayla said.

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