Sweet sixteenth

RARE BIRTHDAY: Sue Templeton of Ashburton is among just five million people worldwide born on February 29.
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Today is a special birthday for Sue Templeton of Ashburton.

Special, because her birth date of February 29 is actually on the calendar this year. That is something that happens only every four years.

This is the 16th time that date has rolled around in Templeton’s 64 years of life, making for some fun leading into today as family prepare to celebrate her ‘‘sweet 16th’’.

Not that they don’t make her feel special every other year as well, in which she celebrates her birthday on March 1.

Templeton said she had never really thought about how it felt to be among people born on the rarest birthday of them all. Only about five million around the world were born on February 29.

But 29 is her favourite number, one she had a bit of luck with over the years with winning raffle tickets.

She said the birth date had come as a surprise to her late mother, as she had arrived as a baby about two weeks early.

There had not really been any downsides to being a leapling. Although some typical sibling rivalry growing up meant she would sometimes get reminded ‘‘you’re not going to have a birthday this year’’.

Then once on a trip to Rarotonga a customs officer at the border paused over her passport.

‘‘I thought ‘Oh gosh, I have done something wrong’.’’ Then the officer realised she had one of those rare birthdays. ‘‘He laughed, he thought it was hilarious.’’

And in the earlier days of the internet, sometimes online when registering her birthday, there had been the odd computer glitch with the February 29 date not being recognised.

Templeton will mark her special birthday by dining out with friends tonight, and going away with family on the weekend.

Today she will celebrate with children at Thomas Street Kindergarten, where she works as a teacher. They will sing the happy birthday song, something they enjoy doing no matter whose birthday it is.

‘‘It’s a happy occasion,’’ Templeton said.