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Once in a leaping blue moon: Leap day babies don birthday hats after four-year wait

According to US space agency Nasa, it takes approximately 365.25 days for Earth to orbit the Sun — a solar year. The extra quarter of a day is generally rounded off in a calendar year.
Last Updated 29 February 2024, 09:17 IST

New Delhi: Birthdays are special, and what when they come only once in four years? Well, the day then just takes on that extra sparkle. As it has this Thursday, when ‘leaplings’, the special few born on February 29 the world over are celebrating – and being celebrated -- just that little bit more.

Every four years, the world receives an extra day from the calendar gods. The rarest of the days to be born on has given India its former prime minister Morarji Desai and Bharatanatyam dancer Rukmini Devi. Adding that edge of cool is a bit of fiction too – Superman, the Man of Steel, was born on this day, according to DC comics.

Jigyasa Pant is no Superman, or Superwoman either, but she has been waiting four years for this day and feels as special as the superheroes. Celebrations, she said, start early for the ‘leap day baby’.

Pant, a placement executive at Indraprastha Engineering College in Ghaziabad, usually celebrates her birthday on February 28 and/or March 1. But if it’s a leap year, it begins right from January 1.

“Each day is kind of a celebration in a leap year. People start texting me from January 1 that this is my birthday year. It is extra special to keep receiving wishes and blessings for two whole months,” Pant told PTI.

The 32-year-old will be turning eight this year, a few more years before she enters her teenage years at the age of 52!

Supreme Court lawyer Prachiti Behere was born the same day – and year. Behere said she uses her birthdays to break ice and reach out to new people.

“It used to be a great way of making friends as everyone would get excited about it,” the 32-year-old said on the eve of her eighth birthday. No one forgets your birthday and everyone makes it a point to wish you.

Even though she gets to celebrate her birthday twice, on February 28 and March 1, in an ordinary year, it’s the grand celebration and enthusiastic family members that make Behere’s actual birthday all the more memorable.

“My husband showers me with double the number of gifts I usually get. Everyone is so excited about it. Generally people forget birthdays, but it is not possible to forget February 29,” she added.

What exactly is a leap year?

According to US space agency Nasa, it takes approximately 365.25 days for Earth to orbit the Sun — a solar year. The extra quarter of a day is generally rounded off in a calendar year.

To make up for the missing partial day, one day is added to the calendar approximately every four years. That is a leap year. Without the existence of a leap year, the world could end up witnessing wuthering winters in July or sultry summers in December.

The excitement doesn’t wane with the passage of time.

Birthday boy Probir Dasgupta, a Delhi-based media consult, doesn’t believe in celebrating birthdays but enjoys whatever the family organises on March 1 when it is not a leap year. But then today, his ‘once-in-four year’ birthday, is different.

“On my actual birthday, I feel special. It makes me feel younger,” said Dasgupta, who turns 72 this year or a young adult of 18 in leap years.

“Actual birthdays are different, it feels more real. I feel wiser not older.” Some other famous people crowned ‘leaplings’ include Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez, Arjuna awardee Indian shooter Prakash Nanjappa, American actor Alex Rocco of “The Godfather” fame, and Jessie Usher, who is known for his role in OTT series “The Boys”.

Delhi-based media professional Shiv Kumar Yadav waits expectantly for February 29 as he plans a visit to a temple and then spends most of the day with his friends.

“Generally I celebrate my birthday on both February 28 and March 1, but the celebration and excitement is multifold when it is February 29. It feels special on that day,” the 28-year-old said.

A native of Ayodhya, Yadav seldom observed birthdays growing up, making the day particularly exciting for him now.

“I never celebrated my birthday before coming to Delhi in 2016. Now, my friends get more excited for my birthday than me,” he added.

While ‘leap day babies’ like Pant, Yadav and Behere have their own special way of celebrating the rare day, Liz Duren from South Carolina in the US enjoys her tradition of throwing children’s birthday parties, as reported by the New York Post.

The 55-year-old podcaster and local historian plans to throw an “ET-themed” party, based on the Hollywood film featuring a friendly alien. “When I turned 44, I threw my 10th birthday party. I had a magician and games,” the news portal quoted her as saying.

But the leap year baby club is largely a lonely one as people born on this special day rarely find fellow leapers.

Pant, for example, has met only one such person when she was 12 – an accounting personnel at her school.

“While filling out some paperwork, he noticed my birthday and excitedly asked, ‘you are also 29 born? We felt so excited and happy to meet because it is a rare coincidence,” Pant said.

Although she is not in touch with “sir” anymore, she remembers the feeling fondly.

There are also a few lucky ones like Lana and Robyn McKeon from Dublin, Ireland.

According to the Irish Independent news website, the siblings were born on February 29 but four years apart. Due to this oddity, the sisters have been invited to a party hosted by the lord mayor of Dublin as well as have made radio and television appearances.

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(Published 29 February 2024, 09:17 IST)

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