LLM2816136 Leap Year Proposal (colour litho) by American School, (20th century); Private Collection; (add.info.: Leap Year Proposal.  Postcard, early 20th century.  Signed August Hutae.); © Look and Learn; American,  out of copyright

Leap Year 2016: If she likes it, she can put a ring on it

2016 is a leap year, meaning that February gains an extra day. This occurs every four years and is due to the solar system’s disparity with the Gregorian Calendar.

Leap years are special, not only for the added date for your diary, but also because the tables of tradition turn for most countries and women may propose to men. Check out these humorous 20th century postcards showing predatory women ‘trapping’ men with leap year marriage proposals, alongside some trivia:

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Leap Year Proposal (colour litho), American School / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

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Leap Year Proposal (colour litho), American School / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

Origins 

  • Leap years were first introduced by Julius Caesar, in the Roman Empire over 2,000 years ago. He made any year that is evenly divisible by four a leap year. This system was then adjusted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, who coined the term ‘leap year’ and declared that a year that is divisible by 100, but not by 400, is not a leap year.
  • In Ireland, the 29th February is called Bachelor’s Day, as women are allowed to propose to men thanks to a tradition that Queen Margaret of Scotland supposedly began in 1288. However, this custom is also followed worldwide and another theory states that it dates back to 5th-century Ireland when St Bridget complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for suitors to propose.

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Postcard depicting ‘How to catch them, in a leap year’, 1908 (colour litho), American School / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

Watch out, guys

  • If the man refused the proposal, he could be fined a kiss, a silk dress or 12 pairs of gloves – at least if he says no you can fulfil your shopping wishlist..!
  • One in five engaged couples in Greece will actually plan to avoid getting married in a leap year, as they consider it to be bad luck.
  • Most people still find females proposing to be unnatural as we are so socially accustomed to men popping the question down on one knee. Indeed from the looks of these postcards, the notion of a woman asking ‘will you marry me?’ is a truly terrifying prospect. However, with changing perspectives and the increasing number of same-sex couples getting married, this is sure to change in the future.
  • Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, Pink, Britney Spears, Halle Berry and Elizabeth Taylor have all reportedly proposed to their partners, albeit only Hudson’s has lasted since.

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Leap-Year Etiquette (colour litho), American School / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

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Leap Year Proposal (colour litho), American School / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

 

Are you a leapling?

The chance of having your birthday on a leap day is roughly one in 1,461. These people are referred to as ‘leapers’ or ‘leaplings’ and are said to possess unique talents or even special powers. Famous people born on this day include Pope Paul III, composer Gioacchino Rossini, astronomer Charles Pritchard and rapper Ja Rule.

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Leap Year Proposal (colour litho), American School / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

Freaky February

  • Leap years are often considered to have supernatural undertones. On 29 February 1692, the first warrants were issued in the Salem witchcraft trials in Massachusetts.
  • In Russia it is believed a leap year is likely to bring more freak weather patterns and a generally greater risk of death.
  • February 29 also marks Rare Disease Day.

More major events on February 29:

  • In 1996, the siege of Sarajevo was lifted after nearly four years.
  • In 1984, Pierre Trudeau resigned as Prime Minister of Canada.
  • In 1964, the Queen’s cousin, Princess Alexandra, gave birth to her only son, James Ogilvy.
  • In 1960, thousands died as an earthquake devastated Agadir, Morocco.
  • In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar, for her role in Gone with the Wind.

The Summer Olympic Games and US presidential elections also always take place in a leap year.

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The Perils of Leap Year, trade card for Corticelli Silk Thread, c.1900 (colour litho), American School / Private Collection / J. T. Vintage / Bridgeman Images

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Leap Year Proposal (colour litho), American School / Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

Food for thought

  • If you work on a fixed annual wage, today is just one more day’s work than you would usually have to do for your salary…
  • Do you know of any bizarre happenings occurring in a leap year?
  • As a woman, would you propose to your partner?

Sources

Leap Year 2016: Here’s what it means and all you need to know about 29 February‘, International Business Times, 20 Feb 2016

Leap Year 2016: Why does February have 29 days every four years?‘, The Telegraph, 29 Feb 2016

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