It’s February 2020 and a Leap Year with 29 days in this month instead of the usual 28. Traditionally women can propose on the 29th February when it’s a leap year which only happens every 4 years. So where does this tradition come from? What’s the history behind it?
Apparently it all started in Ireland in the 5th century when St. Brigid of Kildare said to St Patrick that it was unfair that woman had to wait for men to propose. According to the Legend St. Patrick then decreed that women could propose on this one day in February during the leap year.
History shows that the tradition was later taken to Scotland by some Irish monks.
In 1288, the Scots approved a law saying that women could propose marriage in a leap year. The law also stated that if the man declined the proposal he would have to pay a fine. The fine varied from a simple kiss, new gloves, or a fine silk gown.
It’s possible that this tradition comes from another story about St. Patrick and St. Brigid. Apparently St. Brigid proposed to St. Patrick but he declined her offer. He did however give her a kiss on the cheek and a new silk gown.
The idea of gifting gloves is to hide the ladies shame of not having a ring to wear. In some upper-class European societies the fine was up to 12 pairs of gloves.
In Scotland, it was allegedly Queen Margaret who passed the law that women could propose in Leap Year. She also added that women were to wear a red petticoat when they proposed.
There is also precedent for the tradition in English law. Back in the day February 29 was ignored and had no legal status. People believed that traditions would also have no status on that day as it was not a legal day and so it was possible to have women propose, altering an unfair custom that allowed only men to propose marriage.
In the United States, the Leap Year tradition of women proposing was also celebrated with some people referring to February 29 as Sadie Hawkins’ Day. Sadie Hawkins was a female character in the Al Capp comic strip “Li’l Abner” who inspired Sadie Hawkins Dances where girls would ask boys to attend.
So Ladies, it’s time to get down on one knee and pop the question! Oh, and don’t forget your red petticoat!