Hannah Abts will mark her sixth birthday this week, which is pretty astonishing considering she is an agent at Century 21 Breeden Realtors in Columbus.

Being born on Feb. 29 — Leap Day, which appears on calendars just once every four years — makes actual birthdays for these select few quite rare, and a day worth celebrating.

“I think it was pretty early on that I realized that, ‘Oh. I don’t have a birthday’” most years, Abts said. She quipped that this year, she’ll be “24 going on 6.”

Being among the less than 0.1% of people who share a Leap Day birthday, the once-every-four-years schedule felt differently to Abts when she was going to St. Bartholomew Catholic School, then Columbus North High School, where she graduated in 2018. She admits she sometimes felt slighted in the three-out-of-four years when her birthday didn’t roll around on the calendar.

“It was pretty early on it became evident that most kids have a birthday every year, and mine just happens to fall every four years,” she said. In non-leap years, her birthday was celebrated either on Feb. 28 or March 1, but still, not having your special day on the calendar most years is something that 99.9% of us will never personally experience.

Abts now says of her Leap Dear birthday, “I use it to my advantage.”

“When I was younger I had a much different take on my birthday than I do now. I looked at it as a cool phenomenon but didn’t take into account how much growth happens in those four years,” she said. “A ‘normal’ person reflects on their birthday from the past years’ experience, but how great is it to reflect on a whole four years? Going into my birthday celebration this year, I have reflected on how much growth and evolution has happened.”

And there is much to celebrate on her upcoming sixth birthday. Since graduating from North, Abts took interior design courses at IUPUC, studied for and passed her real estate licensing exam, became a licensed Realtor and got engaged.

“Leap year is a chance to not only celebrate,” Abts said, “… but also a chance for new beginnings, new goals and planting roots for the years to come.”

For Leap Day babies, their birthdays are as frequent an event as the summer Olympics. Coincidentally, those events, including the upcoming 2024 Paris games, also take place during leap years.

According to data from the Indiana Department of Health, just 1,027 people statewide were born on the five Leap Days since 2004. That ranges from a low of 145 in 2020 to a high of 245 in both 2008 and 2016.

Many “leapers” or “leaplings,” as some refer to themselves, take a lighthearted view of their Leap Day birthdays. “Leap Day … is the Rodney Dangerfield of days. No respect,” observed Raenell Dawn, a co-founder of the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies. The organization has a Facebook page dedicated to celebrating those born on Feb. 29.

Dawn, who will turn 64 this year — or 16 in actual Leap Day birthdays — lives in Oregon and also maintains a website, leapyearday.com, where she blogs about life as a leap day baby, as well as her persona as “The Leap Day Lady.”

She writes that during non-leap years growing up, her mother would jot her birthday in the empty box on the calendar after Feb. 28, leading to what she humorously described as “empty box syndrome.” As a child, her other siblings’ birthdays were on the calendar every year, she notes, and she found little comfort in her mother’s explanation that she was “special.”

“Of course, matters weren’t helped when, after raising my hand and proudly answering my teacher’s question about knowing anyone born on Feb. 29 (me!), she shook her head slowly and said, ‘Oh, you poor child,’” Dawn wrote. This led to plenty of teasing at recess.

“There were kids who sang, ‘You don’t get a birthday’ in that sing-song style kids do so well,” she wrote. “They said things like, ‘You can’t play with us, you’re a baby!’ or ‘You’re only 2, how could you know?!’”

But leap day babies seem to be having the last laugh. Dawn’s website lists numerous events where members of this rare breed will gather to celebrate their birthdays that come only once every four years. There are Caribbean cruises and bashes from Michigan and Ohio to California and New York, and even in the United Kingdom.

Abts is planning a party too, inviting friends to a gathering here in Columbus to mark her special birthday.

“I tend to go all out,” she said. “It only happens every four years.”