Leap Year Love Lore


Leap Year Love Lore

2020 is a Leap Year.  February 29th, Leap Day, is filled with traditions and folklore. 

According to an Irish Legend, in the 5th century, St Brigid asked St Patrick to allow women to be able to propose to men, as some women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose.  Patrick agreed that this could happen on a single day every 4 years.  So on Feb 29th, women are able to propose marriage to men.  The practice became a tradition in Ireland and was then passed on to Scotland by Irish monks.

In Scotland, it is said that Queen Margaret passed a law in 1288 that allowed a woman to propose marriage to a man in a leap year, however the woman must wear a red petticoat to show her intentions.  The law also stated that any man who declined must pay a fine to the woman (this could range from a kiss to a silk dress).  This fine is said to have reference to a continuance of the Irish legend.  After receiving approval from Patrick for women to propose on Leap Day, Brigid then dropped to her knee and proposed to Patrick.  Patrick declined but kissed her cheek and gave her a silk gown.  Some argue that this legend couldn’t possibly have happened as Brigid would only have been around 9 years old when Patrick died in 461 AD. It has also been pointed out that in Scotland, Queen Margaret would have only been 5 years old when the leap-year proposal law was enacted.

In other European countries, a man who refuses a Feb 29th proposal from a woman must buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The woman can then wear the gloves to hide her embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. 

In English law, Leap Day was not recognised, so the day had no legal status.  It was acceptable to break the convention of a man proposing.  Also, a crime committed on that day was no crime at all!

The Greeks consider it unlucky to marry during a leap year, and especially unlucky to wed on Leap Day.

Not all Leap Year lore is focused on marriage proposals. 

In Scotland, it is considered unlucky to be born on a leap day. It was thought that “leapling” babies would be sickly and hard to raise.  

However, astrologers say that those born on Feb 29th under the Pisces sign have unusual talents.  And since leap years are rarer than common years, they have lucky omens. Anything started on this day is sure to be successful.

It was also believed that “messing around” with the calendar would throw nature out of whack and caused issues with crops and livestock.  Supposedly, beans and peas planted during a leap year “grow the wrong way”.  The Scots have a saying that “Leap year was never a good sheep year”.

There are several notable events that have reference to Leap Day.  On Feb 29th, 1504, Christopher Columbus was stranded with his crew in Jamaica and the Indigenous people refused to continue helping with food and provisions.  Columbus consulted his almanac and noted that a lunar eclipse was due.  He told the native chiefs that God was unhappy and would punish them by painting the moon red.  As the eclipse occurred and the chiefs began to panic, he told them that if they agreed to help him and his crew, God would withdraw the punishment.  They agreed and the moon emerged from the shadow.

On Feb 29th, 1692, the first warrants for witchcraft were issued in Salem, Massachusetts.

Hugh Hefner opened his first Playboy Club on Feb 29th, 1960.

Leap Day is also St Oswald’s Day, named for an archbishop of York who died on Feb 29, 992.

Since Feb 29th is a rare day itself, it also marks Rare Disease Day.  This is an international event to raise awareness to uncommon diseases and health conditions.

As the Frog is a symbol for Leap Day, Amphibian Ark, an organization that advocates for the protection of amphibians, partners with zoos in a leap year campaign called “Leaping Ahead of Extinction” to encourage people to learn about ways to protect amphibians and their habitats.

*Thanks to Maureen Haddock’s “From the Cookie Jar Blog” for the inspiration for this Leap-Year Love-Lore article. 

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Maureen Haddock

February 2637, 2016 at 05:18 pm

Wonderful article! Thanks for the credit!

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