29 Feb 2012


Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
 February has twenty eight alone
All the rest have thirty-one
Except in Leap Year, that's the time
When February's Days are twenty-nine.

- An old English poem dating back to the 16th century.

It's the 29th of February which makes it a Leap Year and you know what that means, right?

It means that here in Britain its traditional for women to propose to their men folk.

Yes, I know a bit outdated when in many of today's cultures its perfectly acceptable for women to do the proposing but this hasn't always been the case.

Way back when the etiquette surrounding courtship was much stricter it was generally considered unseemly for women to 'get down on one knee' but not so if there happened to be 29 days that February.

But where and when did this tradition begin?

Aha, probably only a tall-tale, an urban myth BUT it's believed to have begun in 5th century Ireland when ST BRIDGET of Kildare  complained to a certain ST PATRICK about women having to wait for men to propose and, being in a good mood that day, Patrick agreed that women should be allowed to 'pop the question' BUT only on this one day in February every four years.

This then continued in Scotland when in 1288 Queen Margaret (though only 5 at the time) was said to have declared that on the 29th of February a women had the right to propose marriage .......... tradition stating that any man who refused such a proposal in a Leap Year would pay a fine ranging from a kiss to the purchase of gloves or even a silk gown though, as some would have it, only if she were wearing a red petticoat at the time.

So, what of other Leap Year traditions?

  • People born on the 29th of February (sometimes known as Leaplings OR Leapers) are invited to join the The Honour Society of Leap Year Day Babies.
  • The appearance of a baby's first tooth should not be celebrated on this day - if it is than none of its other teeth will grow correctly and the child will be cursed with bad teeth for the rest of its life.
  • It was once considered unlucky for betrothed couples to be photographed together on this day as, being neither married nor unmarried, they were said to exist in an in-between state and thus must take care to not show the appearance of enduring couplehood just in case by flaunting their togetherness they jinxed their future lives together.
  • It is said that great good luck attaches itself to anything begun on this day so those setting on a business venture will be successful as will any child conceived within this 24 hour period.
  • Some believe that because it is such an unusual year mortality rates  increase and there will be more natural disasters.
  • When sowing seeds in the spring of any Leap Year a farmer traditionally uttered "I am sowing in a Leap Year - so I'll live a little more."
  • In Greece it is thought to be unlucky to marry on a Leap Day.
  • Those who divorce in a Leap Year will never find happiness again.
Leap Years are needed to keep our calendar in alignment with the Earth's revolutions around the sun. 
It takes the Earth approximately 365.242199 days (a tropical year) to circle once around the Sun.
However, the Gregorian calendar has only 365 days in a year, so if we didn't add a day on February 29 nearly every 4 years, we would lose almost six hours off our calendar every year. After only 100 years, our calendar would be off by approximately 24 days! - timeanddate.com


Patti said...

I love reading about the traditions. Now I feel like today is a good day to start a new book.

StarTraci said...

I love the back story, Believe it or not, I had never heard of this tradition until they made the movie "Leap Year" with Amy Adams. I like the concept of Bridget taking her case to Patrick.

Happy Leap Day to you, my dear friend. I know you already won your man, but i think you should put on the red petticoat, nonetheless.


GMR said...

Great post Tracy! I vaguely remember hearing something about the proposal part but the rest is new to me....interesting stuff too. Will have to share with coworkers... ^_^

Nikki-ann said...

I didn't know the second half of the poem! I don't know if I ever knew it or if I've just simply forgotten it (probably the latter!).

Kimberly @ On the Wings of Books said...

I had no idea there were so many leap day traditions. Thanks for all these little facts :)

I always made up my own ending to the poem because once I got past November I couldn't remember what came next.

Joseph Pulikotil said...


Very interesting post and very educative. It is surprising that women are allowed to propose on this day. Of course this happens only once in four years.

I never realized that this simple 29th Feb. has so much information. I studied about this in school and forgot about it till I started working because in a leap year I will have to stretch my salary for one more day.

Many thanks for digging out so much information on 29th Feb.

Best wishes,

Tomz said...

Hello petty Witter,

After long time, Im back to here..

I like that first tradition..and I am surprised that Britain has so many wonderful traditions related to Leap year alone..

John McElveen said...

LOVE the farmer comment!

Great post as usual!


The Golden Eagle said...

Interesting facts about leap years and days. I knew the one about women proposing, but the rest were new!

naida said...

Thanks for the info on leap year :)

Jen..The Butterfly Effect said...

WOW! That was something.Never knew women were to propose on this day!Good to know :)

....Petty Witter said...

Thanks for all your comments. Good to see you again Tomz and nice to meet you Jen.