Since Leap Day only occurs every four years, many women embrace the rare occasion and propose marriage to their significant other and while women proposing on Leap Day is a long-standing tradition, where exactly does this tradition come from?
Like so many other folklore stories, there’s myth and there’s a bit of fact. The most common story comes from Ireland. In the fifth century, St. Bridget approached St. Patrick to tell him that women were tired of waiting for men to propose and they wanted to be able to ask themselves.
After much debate, St. Patrick agreed to allow women to propose on Leap Day. Aren’t you glad we don’t live in such an antiquated world anymore? Now, for the myth: skeptics have stepped forward to disprove this story by pointing out that St. Bridget was only nine or 10 years old when St. Patrick died, making this a most unlikely story.
Though the origins are possibly unknown and hard to prove, that doesn’t mean that the concept of women proposing to men isn’t a great tradition that circulated throughout many cultures. It’s believed that in 13th century Scotland, a law was passed that if a man declined to marry a woman after she proposed, he must pay a fine.
This fine was most commonly a kiss, a silk dress or a pair of gloves. In Finland, the fine for a man refusing on Feb. 29, was enough fabric to make a skirt. That’s at least better than a pair of gloves to cover up the ring missing from your left hand.
Another Leap Day story comes from Scotland in 1288. Queen Margaret, who was unmarried, created a law that women could propose on Feb. 29, but they must wear a red petticoat as a way of giving the potential candidate a little heads up.
Sadly, even with years of scholars searching, this law has never been found.
Over in Britain, the story goes that Leap Day was treated as not a real day and laws didn’t apply. Without laws, women took the opportunity to propose to their men. So, in that case, while tradition is lovely, you really should propose whenever your heart feels the time is right.
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