Is a leap year lucky or unlucky?
We’re blessed with one additional complete day this year. That’s an extra 24 hours to… channel your inner Beyoncé, go on holiday, try something new or… propose?
We examine unique 29 February leap day traditions from around the world to find out just how lucky or unlucky this once-in-four-years day actually is.
#1 It’s normal for women to propose to men
Women empowerment in the fifth century was all about women refusing to sit around waiting for their men to propose. The story goes feisty St. Kildare of Ireland, compelled by complaints by single women brokered the once-every-four-year role-reversal deal with none other than St. Patrick himself.
#2 And it’s punishable if he says no
The story continues that St. Brigit actually got down on bended knee to propose to St. Patrick. He refused, kissed her on the cheek and presented her with a silk gown instead. Folklore also includes Queen Margaret of Scotland passing a law that fined men who said no.
In Denmark, this morphed into 12 pairs of gloves to hide her ringless finger while Finnish men have to buy jilted women enough fabric to make a skirt.
#3 Nor does it have legal status
How about a time in English history when 29 February was ignored and therefore had no legal status nor convention. We’re not saying it was the Purge but empowered women taking matters into their own hand must have been pretty dire.
#4 Italians find it gloomy
February was associated with the dead during Roman times. However, there’s an Italian proverb that warns “Anno bisesto tutte le donne senza sesto,” translating loosely to, “In a leap year, women are erratic.” Hm.
#5 The Greek want none of it
In Greece, they believed that couples shouldn’t get married or divorced during a leap year. Marriages would end in divorce, and divorcees would never find happiness ever again. Apparently, one in five engaged couples in Greece avoids planning their wedding during a leap year.
#6 In Scotland it was purely bad luck
The Scots compared leap years to Friday the 13th, black cats and walking under ladders. And being the master sheepmen that they are, actually have a saying, “Leap year was ne’er a good sheep year.”
Okay, Sean Connery.
#7 Taiwan is cautious too
Parents are thought to be more likely to die during a leap year. Because of the greater risk, married daughters return home during the leap month with pig trotter noodles to wish them good fortune and long life.
#8 Russians aren’t keen either
Well, who would want an extra 24-hours of possible freak weather and a higher risk of dying?
#9 But how do the Germans feel about it?
Maybe the Russians weren’t far off. The German quip “Schaltjahr wird Kaltjahr” translates to “Leap year will be a cold year.” Villages in the south of Germany have their own ways of warming up the year, however.
Traditionally, boys put up a small birch tree decorated with ribbons (a Liebesmaie) in their crush’s garden on the eve of May Day. Girls take the lead on leap years. Additionally, only women dance around the maypole on a leap year. Men join the rest of the years.
#10 Americans just like to party
High-society women of New York between 1924 and 1968 ruled the roost and could cut in on Leap Day dances held at one of the city’s top hotels.
And the Leap Year Capital of the World, a town called Anthony on the Texas-New Mexico border celebrate the leap year with a four-day-long affair of music and good food.
#11 Yet others, find Leap Day enlightening
In some numerology, 29 February breaks down to 11 (2+9), which is thought to represent spiritual awakening. February also translates to two, which in numerology has a feminine characteristic and stands for following your soul’s ambitions and desires.
29 February is ideal for love, healing and learning. And staying indoors *wink*.