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Local boy marking first Leap Day birthday 

LORNE – Austin Smees will blow out the candles on his birthday cake Monday, celebrating on the actual day of his birth for the first time in his young life. 

Austin Smees came into the world on Feb. 29, 2012. On Monday he will turn four years old, and will celebrate his birthday for the first time on the actual day he was born. He’s shown here with his older sister Sydney. CAROL DUNN/THE NEWS

Austin is a leapling, born on a day that occurs only once every four years, coming into the world on Feb. 29, 2012.

It’s likely he won’t really notice anything different about the celebration, however, as his birthday is marked every year with a party even though until now he hasn’t been able to celebrate on Feb. 29.

“He doesn’t quite understand how special or unique it is,” said his mother Jennifer.

Austin was born at 9:26 p.m. by Caesarean-section because he was breach, and Jennifer said she joked with the doctor to wait until after midnight.

“He said ‘Baby comes when baby comes,’” she said.

Two other babies were born at the Aberdeen Hospital on the same day as Austin, but the family only personally knows one other person with a Feb. 29 birthday – the daughter of one of Jennifer’s former co-workers.

Austin was due on March 16, but was born almost three weeks early.

“When he was born, it was the one day I didn’t want to have him,” said Jennifer.

Her reason for wanting his birthday to be on a different date was because she says there’s stereotypes associated with it.

“I just thought it would be more of a big deal, but we get to celebrate twice as much, which is neat.”

The family usually celebrates on both Feb. 28 and March 1. Jennifer said this is because they like to mark the occasion in the month he was born, and then again after he officially becomes a year older.

She said she’s heard that a lot of leaplings get annoyed when people tell them they’re only one or two because the Feb. 29 date has only come around once or twice in their lifetime.

“Everyone turns a year older every year – it’s just the actual date on the calendar.”

For Austin, though, having a birthday that only rolls around once every four years likely won’t be that bothersome until he’s older, as it means he can’t get his driving learner’s permit until March.

Austin will celebrate his special leap year birthday with a Paw Patrol themed party, which is a kids TV show that he likes.

“It’s just a cartoon about dogs. They do rescues and they drive a helicopter,” he said.

Famous people born on Feb. 29

Pope Paul III 1468-1549

Dinah Shore, pop singer, 1916-1994

Henri Richard, hockey player, 1936-

Dennis Farina, TV actor, 1944-2013

Tony Robbins, motivational speaker, 1960-

Aileen Wuornos, convicted murderer, 1956-2002

Richard Ramirez, convicted murderer, 1960-2013

Ja Rule, film actor, rapper, 1976-

Did you know?

The extra day is necessary because an Earth year – one complete orbit around the sun – doesn’t take an exact number of whole days. It takes about 365.2422 days.

Before Julius Caesar came to power, a 355-day calendar was observed, which included an extra 22-day month every two years. Because feast days started moving into different seasons, Caesar ordered his astronomer to find a new solution, resulting in an extra day in February every four years.

Not every fourth year is a leap year. A year that is divisible by 100, but not by 400, is not a leap year. When Pope Gregory XIII and his astronomers introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582, they chose to lose three leap days every 400 years because a year isn’t exactly 365 days and a quarter long. So the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 didn’t have Feb. 29, but the years 1600 and 2000 did.

Leap year oddities

According to Irish legend, St. Brigid made a deal with St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men on Feb. 29.

In Scotland, it used to be considered unlucky to be born on leap day.

In Greece, it’s considered unlucky for couples to marry during a leap year.

The chance of being born on a leap day is said to be one in 1,461.

The Summer Olympics are always held in a leap year.

People born on Feb. 29 are invited to join The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies.

Feb. 29 is known as Rare Disease Day. Introduced in 2008, it involves patient groups from different countries collaborating on an awareness campaign.

The town of Anthony, Texas is the self-proclaimed Leap Year Capital of the World, celebrating with a festival every four years.



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