Does the tradition of leap year proposals have any relevance in 2020?
Will you be proposing to your other half on the 29th of February? It’s that special year again where, as tradition goes a woman can propose to a man. Obviously this is 2020 and if we want to propose to our boyfriends we will whenever we feel like, regardless of the day, right ladies? If Monica can propose to Chandler so can we! But where does this tradition come from?
Though the tales of origin vary, it is said to have started in 5th century Ireland. According to Irish folklore, St Brigid, Nun of Kildare, approached St Patrick to express her disappointment on behalf of some women who were having to wait far too long for their partners to propose (some men are shy and that's okay!).
As a compromise, St Patrick declared an exception in the custom of men asking women for their hand in marriage; allowing women to propose to their suitors every four years on the 29th February, which would then come to be known as "Bachelors Day". What's more, if the man refused her proposal he must buy her a gift, usually a silk dress (this changed over time and by the mid 20th century to a fur coat).
Supposedly, as soon as St Patrick declared this new tradition, St Brigid got down on one knee and asked him to marry her. He promptly rejects her proposal, gave her a peck on the cheek and gifted her a new gown to soften the blow. Hmm, this could be a great way to get a new wardrobe!
The tradition was adopted by Scottish monks in 1288AD (also a leap year) however in this case if a man were to reject the lady’s proposal, he would be fined. This fine could be either a monetary payment to the lady or a gift of a silk gown or gloves. The sentiment behind gifting gloves was so that the lady could cover her hand concealing the consequential embarrassment of not having an engagement ring on her finger.
In the same year, Queen Margaret of Scotland legitimised the tradition. In yet another variation of the custom, a woman could only propose to her beloved on February 29th as long as she wore a red petticoat.
This tradition made its way to England too, without the restriction of being an actual law. Over time, and with growing equality between the sexes, the idea of women proposing exclusively on the 29th diminished. Quite right too!
Of course, these stories and traditions should be taken with a pinch of salt. In 2020 and it's good to know we women have the freedom to propose to their partner on any day they like.
What are your thoughts on this leap year tradition?
Obviously the 29th doesn’t need to be a day dedicated to grand gestures. If you have feelings for someone a personalised bespoke gift can say just as much as a diamond ring.