What is special about this day, and what does it have to do with gender equality and women empowerment ?? Listen up, ladies!
There are 366 days in a leap year. That adds up to an extra day – which is added to the month of February as the 29th day. Everyone knows this, right? But did you know that this day has a special historic significance?
February 29 is known as Leap Day or Bachelor’s Day – a day when women traditionally ask men for marriage! Leap Day is also the only day that traditionally allows women to break the conventions and propose to their partner.
What is the history behind the marriage proposal made by women in leap years?
The practice dates back to 5th-century Irish folklore. St. Brigid of Kildare, one of the Patron Saints of Ireland, had heard several single women complaining that they had to wait too long to get married as their suitors were too shy to “get down on one knee” and they could do nothing about it. So she requested her good friend and fellow Patron Saint, St. Patrick, to allow women to propose to men of their choice. As a compromise, he promised that henceforth women could do so once every four years i.e., they were allowed to propose marriage in the leap year.
Of course, the women were thrilled! Many women took advantage of his promise and started proposing on February 29th, so much so that the practice spread to Scotland and England as well. Scotland tradition decrees that the woman has to wear a red petticoat to propose. In the thirteenth century, a law was passed in Scotland, which imposed a fine on anyone who refused a marriage proposal in the leap year. The fine can range from a kiss to a silk dress (or a fur coat or enough fabric to make a skirt), or most commonly 12 pairs of gloves (apparently to hide her shame at not having a ring to wear).
Interestingly, the tradition sometimes painted the proposing women as domineering and desperate! There were postcards that poked fun at the tradition, depicting men as “weak and helpless preys”.
In recent times, this Leap Day tradition has been getting popular in pop culture. In the United States, the tradition was also celebrated as Sadie Hawkins’ Day, where women have the right to “run after” unmarried men to propose or invite them to dance. Queen Victoria proposed to Prince Albert in 1839. Celebrities like Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson, singer Pink have proposed to their partners. A Hollywood movie starring Amy Adams is based on the premise of this Leap Day tradition.
This tradition is believed to balance the traditional roles of men and women, in the same way that a leap day balances the calendar. The past century has seen many leaps (pun intended) in gender equality. But when it comes to proposing, it is still mostly the men who take the initiative. Isn’t it time we took charge? The next leap day is February 29, 2024. So gear up, ladies…If you were to propose to someone, what would you say?
After all, why should boys have all the fun ?!!
– Deepa Perumal
Part time Author, Full time Manager, Work-in-progress Entrepreneur
COO, Peaks Academy