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For Those Born Feb. 29, a Life of Virtual Youth

Jim Friedman is fond of saying he’s the youngest person to ever serve on the Ventura City Council.

Although he’ll be celebrating his 41st birthday Saturday, technically Friedman has only had 10 birthdays, because of that quadrennial aberration known as leap year.

“People kid me a lot for having accomplished so much at such a young age,” he quipped. “Basically, it’s just joke after joke after joke.”

Like all people born on Feb. 29, Friedman has to celebrate his birthday on a different day most years. When he was a child, his mother would celebrate it on Feb. 28 and not March 1, because she wanted to keep it during the same month. But that has changed.

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“Now I celebrate for about a week,” he said. “That’s my way of getting back at nature for making my birthday every four years.”

However, when Feb. 29 comes around, his birthdays are more special.

Marie Anderson, a 40-year-old administrative assistant at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, was also born on Feb. 29. Last year, she turned the big 1-0, in terms of actual birthdays.

“That was a lot better than turning 40,” she said. Anderson even had a surprise party that would have made any youngster green with envy.

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“The party was for a 10-year-old, so I got lots of Barbies and even a Ken doll,” she said, chuckling.

Anderson, who has a twin sister in Whittier, said having a birthday roll around once every four years makes for some interesting celebrations.

When she and her sister turned 16, their mother, considering that her daughters each had only four birthdays, invited guests and had them dress up as toddlers.

“That’s the one I remember the most,” she said. “One thing’s for sure, having this birthday is certainly interesting.”

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Leap years have been used ever since Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar in 46 B.C. Under the direction of Greek astronomer Sosigenes, the Julian year was fixed at 365 days. However, calculating that the solar year was actually 365 1/4 days long, the Julian calendar added a day to the month of February every fourth year.

When the Gregorian calendar--our present-day calendar--replaced the Julian in A.D. 1582, leap years were retained, except in centesimal years not divisible by 400. (Consequently, 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, but 2000 will be.)

So those people born Feb. 29 have Caesar to thank for this chronological fountain of youth.

“It’s an unusual feeling to flip through a calendar and not find your birthday,” Friedman said. “But I’ve never felt like I’ve missed out on anything. It’s the most interesting birthday to have.”

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