Leap Year Love And Lore: Tales From The Calendar

2020 is a Leap Year and while, on the surface, this doesn’t seem especially important – it’s an extra day, but what’s that in the grand scheme of things? Well, if you’ve ever spent a little time exploring obscure calendar lore, you might feel differently. Leap Years are actually loaded with significance for relationships, with a particular emphasis on marriage proposals. Here are some classic Leap Year tales to surprise and inspire.

The Original Sadie Hawkins

One of the best known myths about Leap Day is that men have to accept proposals of marriage from women on this day – but there are an assortment of conflicting and equally unlikely claims about why this is. Some peg the the decision on Queen Margaret, claiming that she made a law enforcing women’s right to propose in 1288, which would have made her five years old at the time. Under this apocryphal law, women had to wear red petticoats to signal their intentions to propose, and men who were asked had to oblige such requests.

St. Brigid’s Complaint

While the lore surrounding Queen Margaret allowed women to propose on Leap Day, another version of this story traces back to the time of St. Brigid and St. Patrick. This tale says that the two had an argument, in which St. Brigid complained that many women were being forced to wait to marry because their intended husbands were too shy to ask. St. Patrick agreed and, the story goes, St. Brigid proposed to him on the spot. Of course, St. Brigid was only about 8 when St. Patrick died, so it’s highly unlikely this conversation ever took place, but it is a key part of Leap Year lore.

Leap Years Have Less Marriages

Some countries may have rich engagement traditions surrounding Leap Day, but in other countries, Leap Years don’t bode so well for marriages. In Greece, for example, there’s a common belief that bad things happen because of Leap Years. People may actively avoid getting married during a Leap Year because it’s considered unlucky to start anything new in a Leap Year. Meanwhile, if a couple does get divorced in a Leap Year, they can readily blame the calendar for this misfortune.

Ukrainians also believe that it’s bad luck to get married during a Leap Year, but particularly on Leap Day because of February 29th’s association with St. Cassian. There’s a story about St. Cassian that he refused to help a peasant whose cart was stuck in the mud. St. Nicholas came to the peasant’s aid instead and was granted two annual saints’ days. Meanwhile, as punishment, St. Cassian was sidelined, given just one saints’ day every four years.

Leap Years are undeniably complicated when it comes to international tales and legends, but like our beliefs about Friday the 13th, there’s ultimately nothing special about this day on the calendar. If you want to get engaged or married or buy a house with your partner on Leap Day, there’s no reason to believe that anything bad will happen. We love our stories, and they serve a purpose, but ultimately they’re inconsequential, so get out there and enjoy your extra day.