Much like the World Cup, the Olympics or the cleaning of my car, this event only takes place every 4 years. But did you know that the day also has a peculiar wedding related tradition tied to it? Apparently, when it’s a leap day (the 29th February) tradition dictates that a woman may propose to her suitor. Now, whilst woman are definitely capable of asking a man for his hand in marriage whenever she so pleases, traditionally in Ireland, this right was reserved particularly for a leap year. Why though? Where does this tradition come from?
It is said that the tradition originated in 5th century Ireland when St. Brigid of Kildare complained to St Patrick that women had to wait far too long for men to propose (it’s fair to say that she probably hadn’t had much luck with men). Legend has it that St Patrick, probably wishing for a quiet life, decreed that women could propose on this one day in February during the leap year. The legend then goes on to say that on hearing this decree, St. Brigid dropped to her knee and instantly proposed to St Patrick. No doubt a little taken aback by surprise, Patrick declined her offer but he did give her a kiss on the cheek and a silk gown to soften the blow. How Brigid took this refusal, I’m not sure. But a silk gown is not to be sniffed at so hopefully she was pretty cool about it.
In other European countries, this tradition evolved somewhat and, in the upper classes of society especially, tradition dictated that any man who refused a woman’s proposal on the 29th had to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. Why 12, I don't know. Owning that many pairs of gloves seems a little excessive and hopefully, in today’s society, something like an Amazon voucher would suffice, certainly in terms of practicality.
There you have it then. That is the leap year proposal. There was even a terrible film made about it (I hesitate to use the word comedy) starring Amy Adams (don’t check it out, it’s 2 hours of your life you’ll never get back.) In the spirit of tradition though, I think it’s actually quite a fun idea. So, if you do propose to your man on the 29th Feb and, instead of wondering what you’re going to do with a new silk gown or 12 pairs of gloves, you may actually find yourself having to plan a wedding. If that is the case then congratulations and be sure to drop me a line as I’d love to hear all about your story!