Leap Year Traditions: Women Propose To Men, Leapling Babies And Failed Crops

It's Leap Year again and that means this year we're blessed with an extra day. Monday, February 29 is Leap Day and it comes with a host of traditions and superstitions.

The Earth takes a little more than 365 days to circle the sun in any given year, so to keep the calendar on track Julius Caesar added an extra day, Leap Day, to February every four years.

Without the Leap Day adjustment every four years the seasons would slowly slide into each other and eventually our calendar would look very different than it does today.

The day is loaded with superstitious beliefs and cultural significance.


Women who think their men are taking too long to propose have famously been known to take matters into their own hands during Leap Day and get down on one knee.

The legend says that during the fifth century, Irish Saint Brigid of Kildare asked Saint Patrick to establish a day when women could propose to their suitors who were taking too long to propose on their own.

The story says that immediately after Saint Patrick's declaration, Brigid dropped to one knee and proposed to him, he turned her down, but gave her a kiss and silk gown to make up for it.

The Leap Day proposal legend was brought from Ireland to Scotland in 1288 where Queen Margaret was said to have passed a law that mandated all women proposing on Leap Day were to wear a red petticoat.

Skeptics say Margaret was 5-years-old at the time and living in Norway.

Any man who refused a Leap Day proposal had to pay a fine of silk dresses and 12 silk gloves that could cover the woman's embarrassment and her hands so no one could tell she wasn't wearing an engagement ring.

In 2010, the Leap Day proposal came to the big screen with the Amy Adams movie Leap Year in which an American woman follows her fiancée to Ireland so he'll propose.

Leap Year Birthdays

People born on Leap Year are known as leaplings or leapers. Most of the time they're forced to celebrate their birthdays' the day before, on Feb. 28 or the day after on March 1. The discrepancy can make it difficult for leaplings to get driver's licenses and insurance policies.

The founder of the online club Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, Raenell Dawn, told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that being a Leap Day baby is both comical and frustrating.

Many leap day babies are sick and tired of hearing the same questions. We've got to help the school system embrace leap year day and make it fun in school. This is what you can get me for my birthday: Donate a leap day-themed book to your school library.
The town of Anthony, which straddles the New Mexico/Texas border, is the Leap Year capital of the world, according to Quartz. The town hosts a celebration every four years.

Leap Year is considered unlucky in Scotland where rural superstitions say the extra day reeks havoc on the agricultural world, according to the Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore and the Occult Sciences of the World.

Nothing shall be built, planned or planted in a leap year; it does not prosper. The whole vegetable world is affected by the influences of leap year. The peas and beans grow the wrong way in their pods, and seeds are set in quite the contrary way to what they are in other years.
Leap Day is also St. Oswald's Day, after the York archbishop who died Feb. 29 in 992.

How will you celebrate this Leap Day? Will you be getting down on one knee?

AP Photo/Leanne Italie