February 29, 2012
In the Gregorian calendar, all the years divisible by 4 are leap years. In a leap year, February has 29 days. This compensates for the fact that a solar year is about 6 hours longer than 365 days.
The leap year was introduced in the Julian calendar in 46 BC. In 10 BC, it was discovered that priests in charge of computing the calendar had been adding leap years every three years instead of four as decreed.
Thus to correct this, no further leap years were added until 8 AD.
To compensate for errors, the Gregorian calendar adjusts the leap year rule by omitting 3 leap days every 400 years.
The 29th February is a leap day. It is considered an auspicious day for single women to step forth and ask an unsuspecting man to marry them. Usually this entails a known partner, and not a regular good looking man who takes their fancy on the day.
According to Irish legend, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick that allowed women to propose during the leap period and traditionally on the 29th February. I do have to wonder what St Bridget used as leverage to convince St Patrick to agree!
I have been married for 26 years so I won't be needing to to grab this opportunity.
However, for all those lovely ladies wanting the white wedding and seemingly stuck in a "going –nowhere-near-a-church" type relationship- then today is the day to step forward and ask your beloved to marry you.
But what if he says "NO" ?
In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman's proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.
Times have changed, men are not held accountable for not wanting to get married. All the same, although I do admire a fine pair of gloves like any women- a refusal to wed is serious business. Perhaps some new laws could make many a man see marriage as a worthy option if refusal meant that he would be dipped in boiling tar and feathered. Then paraded naked through the streets as a token reflection of a shattered heart. Once that was settled, the poor woman should hot-foot it out on the town with a supportive bunch of girlfriends for dinner and dancing.
Here's a little bit of Leap Day trivia-
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Keogh family is the only verified example of a family producing three consecutive generations born on February 29th.
Peter Anthony was born in Ireland on February 29, 1940, while his son Peter Eric was born on the Leap Day in the United Kingdom (UK) in 1964. His daughter, Bethany Wealth, was, born in the UK on February 29, 1996.
I can only imagine birthday celebrations in this family are huge events every four years.