Today is the leap day, a date that occurs once every four years and, famously, according to Irish folk tradition, it's the day when ladies can propose to their man.
In Ireland, the tradition of ladies getting down on one knee is said to date back to the 5th century when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait too long for suitors to propose. The legend goes that Ireland’s patron saint gave women a single day – the last day of the shortest month – the leap day – to propose. It’s said that Bridget dropped straight to one knee and proposed but he refused. He kissed her on the cheek and offered her a silk gown to soften the blow.
Although we consider it an Irish tradition, the leap day is recognized as something special in many places.
Below is a collection of some pretty strange facts about this unusual day.
- If a woman is going to pop the question she must wear breeches or a scarlet petticoat.
- The frog is a symbol associated with February 29. The Australian rocket frog can leap over two meters.
- The town of Anthony,TX is the self-proclaimed "Leap Year Capital of the World" and holds a festival to celebrate the fact.
- People born on February 29 are called "leaplings" or "leapers."
- Elsewhere in Europe, February 29 is also known as Bachelor’s Day, when women are permitted to propose. In their cases if the man refuses they are obliged to give the women money or a dress.
- In upper-class societies in Europe if the man refuses he must buy the woman 12 pairs of globes to hide the woman’s embarrassment of not having an engagement ring.
- In Greece it is considered unlucky to marry on a leap day.
- The record for the most generations born on leap day is held by the Keogh family in Ireland and UK. Peter Anthony Keogh was born on leap day in 1940 in Ireland, his son Peter Eric came into the world on February 29 1964 in the UK and a granddaughter, Bethany Wealth on leap day in 1996.
- In the Scotland they believe it was Queen Margaret who came up with the notion that women could propose on leap days. It’s said she was just five years old when she came up with the notion.
- The plot of Gilbert and Sullivan's “Pirates of Penzance” revolved around Frederic's discovery that, because he was born on a leap day, he must remain apprenticed to pirates for another 63 years before he can join Mabel, his lover.
- February 29 also marks Rare Disease Day.
- If you work on a fixed annual wage…then you’re working for free today!
- Astrologers believe people born on February 29 have unusual talents.
- On this day in 1960 Hugh Hefner opened his first Playboy Club.
Here’s a list of some famous folks who were born on a leap day:
- John Byron, English poet, hymnist, and inventor of a system of shorthand. (d. 1763)
- Ja Rule, rapper.
- Gioacchino Rossini – Italian composer ("The Barber of Seville," "William Tell") (d.1868).
- John Phillip Holland, Ireland – Designed and built the first submarine for U.S. Navy (d.1914)
- Wladimir Rudolfovich Vogel, composer
- Jimmy Dorsey (James Francis Dorsey) – Legendary saxophonist, conductor, songwriter and composer.