February will have 29 days instead of the normal 28 this year since 2016 is a leap year. Leap years were devised when the western world switched from the old Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar that more accurately followed the world’s travel around the sun each year. The Gregorian calendar is still not perfect though and just about every four years, a day is added in February to catch up.
All sorts of traditions and legends have developed around leap years. In Greece apparently, it is unlucky to marry in a leap year. The belief is that the marriage will end in divorce. In England, there is a tradition for women to propose marriage to men on the leap day itself (February 29th) instead of waiting for the man to propose. This tradition is thought to have originated in Ireland where legend has it St. Patrick agreed to the tradition first requested by St. Brigid on behalf of all single women. If the man declines though, tradition also has it that the man has to buy the woman a silk dress. In other countries, 12 pairs of gloves should be given instead so that the woman can always hide the fact that she is not wearing a wedding ring.
Leap years do not always occur every four years. Women waiting for 2100 to propose marriage will be out of luck since the rules that century years can only be leap years if they are divisible by 400 apply to 2100. Let’s hope that we have all found the love of our lives by then:)
In America, a similar tradition of women proposing to men on February 29th is celebrated in November. Called Sadie Hawkins day, the tradition apparently originated from a cartoon comic strip in the 1930s. The comic strip portrayed young men in a race with a young woman, Sadie Hawkins, chasing them. She married the first man she caught.
The story captured the imagination of students in colleges across the nation, much to the chagrin of the comic strip writer, Al Capp, who made his own tradition of including the character whenever he liked each year in his comic strip. The day is still celebrated though as a day for women to take the initiative and ask men out or even propose marriage.
Sadie Hawkins day will come in handy in 2100 at least for the women who waited for what they thought was going to be a leap year to propose to their most favorite man. They will still have a chance in November:)