Need more time to rest, play, travel, do your taxes? The calendar gods have blessed you this year.
February 29th marks leap day in this 2008 leap year.
Every full rotation of the earth around the sun takes 365.2422 days. Thus, every year throws the calendar off by 1/4 of a day, accumulating into 1 day every 4 years, approximately. A leap year helps the calendar fall in line with the seasons.
Women, Men and Marriage Proposals on Leap Day
Women asking men for their hand in marriage has become one of the most popular customs on leap dayfor the past few centuries. Here are a few stories and myths of where this tradition came from–some may be closer to the truth than others.
It is said that in Ireland during the 5th century, St. Bridget approached St. Patrick to strike a deal that would allow women to propose marriage to men. Thus leap day became the only day that women were allowed to propose to men.
It is said that in the 1200s, Queen Margaret of Scotland issued a decree that fines would be charged for marriage proposals refused by men when they were made by women (any day of the year). Fines that had to be paid were a kiss, a dollar, pair of gloves or a silk gown, to help the proposing woman to feel better. Men felt that this was unfair and so it is said that women’s proposals to men were restricted to this day only. Thus, this day is also called Bachelor’s Day.
Later in the 1600s, it is said that women who were looking to seize the day and take advantage of their opportunity to offer a marriage proposal were expected to wear a red coat. The red coat gave men a “fair warning” of their intentions on that day.
Leap Day Celebrations Today
The ritual celebrations of leap year are celebrated mainly in English speaking countries and the United Kingdom and were not known until 19th century.
Those with birthdays on February 29 or leap day, often celebrate their birthdays on February 28 or on March 1. They’re also nicknamed “leaplings.”
Today, leap days give people a chance to do things they usually wouldn’t do throughout the year and to carpe diem or seize the day. So go ye and seize your leap day this year!