In less than two weeks time, we will encounter the 29th of February – a date which only occurs once every four years. This date has an extra special significance – it’s a leap year, and on this date a woman may propose to a man. Traditionally, it is the man’s job to get down on one knee, and of course more and more modern women are proposing to their partners, but the leap year is a special opportunity to show the man (or woman) in your life that you want to spend the rest of your life with them. The 29th of February may give some guys the fear, and others may be relieved to have the pressure taken off of them! Today, we take a look at the history and folklore behind the leap year tradition.
The earliest notion of the leap year is said to have occurred in fifth century Ireland when St. Brigid of Kildare complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait far too long for men to propose. Folklore says that St. Patrick decreed that women could propose on this one day in February during the leap year. The tradition was then apparently taken to Scotland by Irish monks.
In the year 1288, the Scots passed a law that would allow a woman to propose marriage in a Leap Year, with the law also stating that any man who declined the proposal on this day would have to pay a fine. Allegedly, this law was passed by the unmarried Queen Margaret, who ruled that women should wear a red petticoat when they made their proposal. If a man declined the proposal, fines ranged from a mere kiss to paying for a new silk dress or pair of gloves. This relates back to the original story of St. Patrick and St. Brigid, when St. Patrick declined her proposal but gave her a kiss on the cheek by way of consolation.
Some upper-class European societies took the idea of the fine to another level – if a man declined, he would have to not one, not two, but twelve pairs of gloves for the woman he was rejecting (so that she could hide her ring finger!). A leap year is not always associated with proposals and marriage – in Greece, it is believed that getting married during a leap year is unlucky, meaning that many couples avoid it!
Did you propose during a leap year? Or are you planning to pop the question to your significant other on the 29th of January? Let us know, we’d love to hear your story!