‘I turn 40 but it’s my 10th real birthday’

CJ Benjamin on her second leap year birthday

CJ Benjamin on her second leap year birthday

Published Feb 29, 2024


“YOU’RE a leap year baby, so when do you actually celebrate? So you're only like 10 years old?”

These are the questions I get all the time when someone discovers my birthday. I don't mind at all and I can fully appreciate the interest in such an unusual birthday.

So here's my story...

My mother went into labour on the 28th of February, while she and my grandparents were preparing to observe Shivaratri. My mum went to the hospital (RK Khan) for what would be her second child birth; no pain management whatsoever but ready to welcome me into the world.

She said she had asked me to arrive on the 28th of February because she didn't want me to have a birthday once every four years but I didn't budge at all. On the 29th of February, she says, she asked me to stay put and only arrive on the 1st of March but I have always had a strong personality, and did things my way, deciding to make my entry into the world on the 29th of February at 5.20am on the incredibly auspicious Shivaratri.

My earliest memories of hearing “leap year baby” were from my late dad. He would carry me around and I would hear him say: “This is my leap year baby.”

I had no idea what it meant. My parents celebrated a birthday for me every year but every fourth year was incredibly special. We didn't have much at all but my parents always made a leap year special for me. And now for the biggest question I imagine all leap year babies get, “when do I celebrate when it's not a leap year?”

As a child, I enjoyed a birthday every year but as I have gotten older, I much prefer waiting for my real birthday on the 29th. It is a rather strange experience when I don't have a birthday; social media announces my birthday as the 28th of February when it's not a leap year as I'm sure the argument is that I was born on the last day of February.

However, there is only one person who gets to decide when I celebrate and that's my Mama!

My mother argues that I was born on the day after the 28th; on the 28th I had in fact not arrived, so for her, it doesn't make sense to celebrate a day earlier. Therefore, my family celebrates my birthday on the 1st of March.

I personally am grateful that my family celebrates me every year but it's so interesting that when it's a leap year, I have absolutely no emotional attachment to the 1st of March despite having had more birthdays on this day than my actual birthday.

This year, I turn 40. It's my 10th real birthday and it feels epic. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about a birthday. I have plans to party for four days to make up for 4 years. I think it's special to have been born on this day. I certainly feel like I have been lucky all my life and who knows, maybe it's a leap year thing. I'm not complaining.

Happy Birthday to all my fellow leapers. Make the most of your day. We only have four years to wait until the next one.

* CJ Benjamin is a former national radio talk show host, who received numerous awards during her tenure in addition to being awarded for her public service. She continues to be passionate about youth and women empowerment, engaging with youth and women across Africa in public workshops focused on self- development and motivation. Benjamin has a growing social media presence and talks to thousands of people daily through her topical videos on relatable issues in society.


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