Although it’s not a holiday, Leap Day is one of my favourite days of the year. Call it scarcity. Point your accusatory finger at me and remind me that it’s just another day of drudgery…nothing to get excited about.
Go ahead. You won’t temper my exuberance. It’s not that easy to do so anyway.
First let’s talk about why we even have Leap Day, and I’m going to let The Straight Dope do the honours when it comes to explaining this one in Why do we have leap years? The simplest explanation I can offer? A year isn’t actually 365 days, but roughly 365 1/4 days. If you didn’t add that day every four years, Christmas would inch earlier toward the solstice…in 200 or so years Yuletide would be in the middle of autumn, which come to think of it is when retail establishments already start celebrating it.
My friend Denise sent me a link about Leap Day traditions. Though I knew about the tradition of women asking men to marry them on this day, I didn’t know the history. And I quote:
‘According to an old Irish legend, or possibly history, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every 4 years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.’
Doubt that one day’s going to balance anything much less traditional gender roles, but I suppose this isn’t hurting anyone. Well, except the poor schmucks who get cornered by their ladies. Here’s what I think about all of this (that is why you come here, after all):
If you really need to rely on such a convoluted tradition to get up the nerve to ask your man, you might be much more clueless than even you realised. Look, I know gender roles aren’t always easy to manoeuvre. And some women would never dream of asking a man out on a date – much less to ‘do me the honour’ and all that.
But if that’s your position, why does this one day every four years suspend the normal rules? That’s illogical.
Nevertheless, there is something alluring about one day somehow suspended outside of convention. And to go back to how I started all of this, maybe it’s the scarcity. The fact that this day only comes every four years. It does feel like something extraordinary. Even without the perfunctory marriage proposals.
What about people born on this day? What’s to be done with them? They have a name, you know? They’re called Leaplings. Nice, eh? Sounds so celebratory.
I knew a girl in school who was born on 29 February. We were all 20, while she was celebrating her fifth birthday. You’d think the jokes about liquoring up a minor would get old that night. You’d be absolutely right. The jokes were dreadful. But make them we did. Had she known about the tradition of proposing marriage on Leap Day, I’m sure she would’ve had her revenge then and there.
I know what I would’ve said.
‘I don’t care how well she holds her liquor, I’m not marrying a five-year old.’