Once every four years we are blessed with an extra day in our calendars thanks to our friend Julius Caesar who introduced the leap year around 45 BC. This day may seem like a regular day to most people but there are many traditions and fun facts surrounding February 29. With this auspicious event just three days from now, we thought it would be interesting to uncover some facts and traditions surrounding the rarest of days on the calendar:
- Women can ask men to marry them
This is the most common (but very outdated) leap year myth. Once every four years on this fateful day, women have the chance to ask their star-crossed lovers to take their hand in marriage, when usually it is traditional for the man to ask his girlfriend. So girls, if you’re thinking of popping the big question, do it on Monday. Otherwise your next chance won’t be until 2020!
- Men are punished for saying no
In some countries their tradition states that if a man refuses the Leap Day wedding proposal he must pay a penalty such as a gown or money, or even the very particular amount of 12 pairs of gloves. The gloves, of course, are to hide the shame of not having an engagement ring.
- Unlucky in love
In Greece it is considered unlucky to be married on February 29, leading one in five couples to request another day for their big ceremony. In Scottish tradition it is considered unlucky to be born on February 29, with those people especially unlucky in the love stakes.
- Free labour
Leap Day falls on a Monday this year and no one likes getting out of bed on any Monday morning – especially when you won’t be paid! If you are on a fixed monthly or annual salary unfortunately February 29 isn’t included in your pay package. It may be the perfect day to have a sickie (but we didn’t tell you that!).
- Coming of age
Many countries have different rules surrounding when a child born on February 29 comes of age (ie. turns 18). For instance it is February 28 in New Zealand but March 1 in the UK. It seems to be undefined in Australia but waiting until March 1 to visit your first nightclub or bar is probably the safest option!
- Guinness Book of Records
There are two quite unique examples of record-holding leap-year families in that most famous book of records. The Keogh family has produced three consecutive generations born on February 29 but the Henrikson family holds the official record for the most number of children born in one family on Leap Day. Would you believe, Karin Henrikson gave birth to three children in eight years with all children being born on a Leap Day?!
- Society for Leap Day Babies
If you are born on February 29 there is a support club for you. It is called “The Honour Society of Leap Year Babies”. This website allows you to connect with fellow leap year kids who share the same struggles of only having a ‘real’ birthday every four years.
Words // Bridie Macdonald