Moonrise on Jupiter

A Glimpse into the Thoughts & Imaginings of Vibeke Hiatt

PSA: The Half-birthday Problem

There is a problem in our world that affects millions of people every year and most of us don’t realize it. It’s a problem beyond our control, but a problem nonetheless. Millions of people are unable to celebrate their half-birthday.

We talk about those who only have a birthday every four years on February 29, but for people born on March 31, May 31, August 30, August 31, October 31, and December 31, their half-birthday comes around less often: never. Those with a birthday on August 29 are more fortunate, enjoying their half-birthday with their leap-day-birthday counterparts. I believe this is a problem we should no longer ignore.

I spent a large part of my life happily oblivious to this problem. I married into a family that celebrates half-birthdays and relished the fact that I get to have cake twice a year now. I was blind to the suffering of others until my brother married a woman who was born on May 31. Speaking of half-birthdays one day, she pointed out that she doesn’t have one. I was shocked. In a few seconds I had done the mental math and realized that she was right. I took the math further and realized that she’s not the only one.

If she celebrates her half-birthday on November 30, it’s a day too soon. If she waits until December 1, it’s a day too late. All she has is a fraction of a second between 11:59pm and midnight between the two days. That’s not enough time to enjoy a cake, or even to say, “Happy half-birthday!”

Today is leap day. Thousands of people throughout western civilization with be taking advantage of this rare opportunity to enjoy a free meal or dessert at a restaurant, feel the thrill of hearing “happy birthday” on their actual birthday, and joking about their age. But while you’re remembering your family and friends with a February 29 birthday, don’t forget your family and friends with an August 29 birthday.

And take a moment to remember those who are less fortunate: the millions of men, women, and children who will never celebrate a half-birthday.

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