Bewave unmarried men!
Well here we are 29thFebruary, the day which makes 2012 a Leap year.
And you cannot do a blog on calendar customs without including one of the strangest a four year to make up for the fact the year is really always a 1/4 of a day long! Sadly, the reason for the name, the law failed to recognise the year and so it was ‘leapt’ over..now of course it is officially recognised.
The most enduring tradition associated with the date is that it was acceptable for women to ask their partners to marry them! This appears to be still a surviving tradition, and of course the same is applied to Valentine ’s Day in the year, despite the supposed equality between the sexes!
Legendarily it is said to be directly related to a story between Saints Bridget and Patrick. She is said to have partitioned him to ask him to allow women to have a greater influence on their choice of spouses and he agreed but only for this day! Interestingly the Church of England appears to have devised a new prayer continuing the tradition
The story is likely to be made up to cover a more pagan tradition but no-one appears to be clear on this. Certainly the tradition is strongest in Scotland perhaps associating it with our Celtic heritage which of course was more matriarchal than the Roman/Saxon societies which took over. In Scotland, there was a fine when men refused to accept the marriage proposal. It is said that Queen Margaret in 1288 had a dream about a man refusing her and so installed a £1 fine or a kiss and silk gown whichever you believe!
In other parts of the world according to wikipedia:
*In Denmark, the tradition is that women may propose on the bissextile leap day, February 24th, and that refusal must be compensated with 12 pairs of gloves.
*In Finland, the tradition is that if a man refuses a woman’s proposal on leap day, he should buy her the fabrics for a skirt.
*In Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky. One in five engaged couples in Greece will plan to avoid getting married in a leap year.
Does this tradition still go on? Not according to statistics, which suggest that 9% of proposals are from women to men, although 80% of men say they would accept a proposal from their girlfriend. In TV of course, Friends saw Chandler said yes to Monica and in Sex and the city, Miranda proposed to Steve! A website even gives advice on how to do it!
Interestingly, it was also thought to be unlucky to be born on a leap year although it is certainly lucky for friends and relatives who don’t have to spend as much! Plus you are younger of course!