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Leap Day Proposal

A History of Leap Year Engagements

Happy leap day! If you watched that Amy Adams movie a while back, you know that according to tradition, on Feb. 29 a woman can propose to a man. But this practice dates back before romantic comedies. According to legend, in the fifth century, Ireland's St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait too long for a proposal. St. Patrick apparently decided he could compromise and let women propose on leap day. After all, it only comes around every four years.

Another story attributes the practice to Queen Margaret of Scotland in 1288, who is said to have imposed fines for men who turned down a woman's proposal. Note that Queen Margaret would have been 5 and living in Norway at the time. The fine ranged from a kiss to a silk gown. In Denmark, the longstanding tradition states that a man must give a woman 12 gloves if he refuses marriage on leap day, and in Finland the fine is fabric for a skirt.

Whether St. Patrick or Queen Margaret actually granted women permission to propose, it didn't become popular until the 19th century. Obviously this tradition seems quaint if not sexist, since a woman shouldn't be obligated to wait passively for a proposal except on one day every four years. Still, I'm curious: regardless of the day, would you propose to your guy?

Image Source: Everett Collection
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