Growing up, Dwayne Wanner grew tired of his father joking to everyone that Wanner could collect family allowance until he’s 18, then he could switch to an old age pension.

On Thursday Wanner will celebrate his 20th birthday in Burlington, Ont. Born on Feb. 29 — the leap day that comes once every four years — he’ll actually be turning 80 years old. 

Though that means his true birthday comes around less frequently than most people’s birthdays, he’s always appreciated being one of the few. 

“Being born on leap years gives you a certain sense of uniqueness. Not superiority or anything like that, but just uniqueness,” Wanner said.

“And people remember your birthday without their computer having to tell them.”

Being born on Feb. 29 is obviously rare. Between 2012 and 2022, 308,968 people were born in the month of February, according to Statistics Canada data. Only 2,785 people were born on Feb. 29, according to the federal agency.

Statistics Canada was unable to provide a count of the total number of Canadians born on Feb. 29 before the publication of this story. 

The birthday exists because the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced 442 years ago and states there are 365 days in a year, is slightly off. A solar year is actually 365.242 days long — about 365 and a quarter days. Adding an extra day to the calendar every four years makes up for the difference.

Wanner says he was in second grade when he had his first significant birthday. His teacher and classmates planned a surprise party, partially out of pity for his lack of an annual birthday.

“You know: ‘Poor Dusty, he only has a birthday every four years,'” he said. 

LISTEN | Some of the perks of being a leap year baby: 

Columnists from CBC Radio3:54Leap year babies get perks… once in awhile

For most people, it’s just a little quirk of the calendar, but for those who are born on February 29th, leap day can be very special. The CBC’s Blair Sanderson “leaped” head-first into this story.

Despite how infrequent they are, Wanner likes to make the most of his birthdays. 

“I try and use my birthday as a way to not only raise a little bit of money for other things, but also to have people understand that they should all do this,” he said. 

Every four years, he asks people to donate to causes dear to him. This year he’s trying to raise money for the Home of Love and Hope, a school for vulnerable children run by El Hogar in Honduras, as well as funds to sponsor a family of refugees from Syria. 

He’s got no interest in gifts for himself. 

“Whatever you bring, I’ve got three of them — if I could find it in my garage,” he said.

Celebrating like a 10 year old

In Toronto, Branden Miller is also celebrating a big milestone Thursday. While he’s technically turning 40, he’ll be celebrating his 10th official birthday.

“Most people say, ‘oh, you’re 40,’ and I don’t look at it that way. I’m 10,” he said. “Finally have crested the hill into the double digits. It’s a big milestone in terms of my life.”

A boy in a black hoodie holds up a cake that has Bart Simpson on it.
Miller in 1992, celebrating his second birthday and turning eight years old. (Submitted by Branden Miller)

Miller plans to celebrate like a 10-year-old boy. He and friends will be having a pizza party with doughnuts and balloons.

As for the theme?

“Ninja Turtles,” Miller said. 

When he sent out invites, Miller said a friend mistook it for another party he’d have to take his kid to.

LISTEN | Two official birthdays ago, Miller spoke with The Current: 

Metro Morning6:04Leap Year Birthday

It is a day that only comes around once every four years, Matt Galloway had a conversation with two Leap Year babies. Branden Miller is turning eight, or 32, today, and Catherine Hewlett is celebrating her 10th and 40th birthday.

Miller was born on one of the most memorable leap days in Canadian history. On Feb. 29. 1984, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said “it seemed like a good day to have a last day” and told the Liberal party he would be resigning. 

Miller’s mother also made a big decision that day, after the doctor asked her if her son’s birth certificate should say Feb. 28 or March 1. 

“She said, ‘No, no, he was born on the 29th. It’s going to say he was born on the 29th.”

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