It’s been four years in the making, but Leap Day is here once again, and we all get to live one extra day.
There are several traditions and folklore associated with this special time — one of them means a “bonus” for about half of the population of marrying age: Women are “permitted” to do the marriage proposal bit.
And woe unto the man who turns that proposal down flat.
But who started this whole reverse-proposal business, and what is at stake with a rejection?
Some say the tradition itself goes back to the time of St. Patrick and St. Bridget. These legendary saints of Ireland were contemporaries. It seems St. Bridget felt that too many women of her day were compelled to wait for their stubborn suitors to get up the nerve to pop the question. So she approached St. Patrick, the head of the church in Ireland, and he came up with a compromise. He allowed women one day to get the marriage wheels in motion. That one day just happened to be Feb. 29. (What else would you expect from a guy who was able to outsmart a bunch of snakes?)
Down through the ages, women have leaped onto the proposal loophole, zeroing in on their tongue-tied lover and asking the big “Will you?” question. The lover is free to accept or reject the proposal. If he accepts, a lifetime of happiness is (potentially) in his future; if he rejects, well, things will not go easy for him.
Here are just a few of the “punishments” that await a man for saying “no” to a woman’s proposal on Leap Day:
● He must give her one kiss
● He must pay her a sum of cash (in England, for example, that adds up to 1 pound — about $1.50)
● He must buy her a pair of gloves
Does the punishment fit the crime? That question may best be left to the offender and the offended. However, what is particularly interesting is the “pair of gloves.” That fine may be most fitting since the gloves are provided to the woman to keep her hands covered — that way, no one can see that the man turned her down and that she is not wearing an engagement ring.
By the way, a guy can be glad he doesn’t turn down a proposal in Denmark. There, you’d owe the woman 12 pair of gloves.
Leap Day (and its inherent marriage imbroglio) is one of life’s necessary “adjustments.” Since our calendar accounts for 365 days each year and each year is actually one-quarter day longer, Feb. 29 was added as part of the Gregorian calendar in 1582. It was Julius Caesar, though, who first tackled the astronomical year versus calendar year conundrum.
The one-quarter day is not an exact amount, either. The precise length is 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds. Therefore, technically, humanity is still owed yet another extra day every 8,000 years.
Here are a five more fun facts for Leap Day:
● If you have the same salary last year as you have this year, today you are working for free.
● If you were born on Feb. 29, there was a 1-in-1,461 chance of a natural birth on this day.
● If you’re looking for the “Leap Year Capital of the World,” hop on over to Anthony, Texas. Spelunking in an Aztec cave and square dancing are part of the festivities.
● Fittingly enough, this is also officially “Rare Disease Day.”
● The day has its own mascot: the frog.
Of course, if the sun goes down on Leap Day and a woman feels she’s missed her chance to ask that special guy that special question, all is not lost. There is a second traditional day that gives the women the ask-advantage. It arrives annually in mid- to late-November: Sadie Hawkins Day.