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How one Dover Twp. native is celebrating her leap year birthday

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Melissa Baker celebrates her 8th birthday.

Melissa Baker will celebrate her ninth birthday Saturday, though she was actually born 35 years ago. 

As a leap year baby born in 1984, the Dover native shares a birthday with just 0.07% of the human population.

"It's just one more odd fact to throw out that people think is very interesting," Baker said. "I enjoy it; I always thought it made me unique." 

Leap year comes once every four years. It's a mathematical phenomenon that adds an extra day to February so the calendar squares with astronomical reality.

The next leap day is Saturday.

While typically calendars include 365 days, the Earth actually takes 365¼ days to fully orbit the sun.

A decree by the ancient Roman dictator Julius Caesar began the tradition of adding an extra day every four years, with the creation of the Julian calendar — making up for those quarter days, according to CNN.

In the 16th century, Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian calendar so that leap years occur every year divisible by four, but only in century years that are evenly divided by 400. That's when the Gregorian calendar used now was born. 

But history aside, for those born on a leap year, it means a quarter fewer birthdays than most people. 

"Growing up with a birthday that didn't really exist, it makes it a little more special," Baker said.

At the time of her birth, Baker's mother was two weeks overdue. After physicians induced labor, Baker was born 40 hours later on Feb. 29, 1984.

On years when she didn't have a birth date to celebrate, Baker's family gathered  Feb. 28 to throw one big birthday party — as several family members also had birthdays in February, including one cousin born on a Valentine's Day.

This newspaper clipping from The York Dispatch on Feb. 29, 2008 shows a leap day article discussing myths and superstitions about the special day.

Though leap year might mean some fabulous parties or discounts for people born on the day, there are several traditions and superstitions that also have been linked with it.

Leap day has become known as a day when women propose, a break from the traditional status quo where proposals are done by men. 

The custom comes from an old Irish legend in which Saint Brigid made a deal with Saint Patrick to allow women to propose to men — but only every four years, according to timeanddate.com

Similarly, Feb. 29 has been known as "Bachelors' Day" but serves as a punishment for men. Most notable in European countries, this tradition on leap year required men to buy 12 pairs of gloves for rejecting the proposals of women, the website states.

Baker said she plans on keeping her birthday low-key this year. She plans on binge-watching Marvel movies on the extra day with some close friends while enjoying  birthday cake and drinks.

"I like it because it's unique," Baker said. "Having one more unique thing never bothers anybody." 

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.