Though in some cultures this extra day comes and goes like any other, in Ireland, we have the long-held tradition of Leap Day proposals. In years gone by, the 29th of February was the one day, every four years, when women could propose to men. Of course, times have changed and now a woman can propose to her partner on any given day of the year, but the tradition of the Leap Day proposal lives on in the media, with the 2010 release of the Leap Year movie starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode.
So where did this tradition come from? Legend has it that St Brigid complained to St Patrick that the women of Ireland had to wait far too long for their partners to propose, so Patrick conceded that women could have this one day every fourth year to pop the question themselves. However, all was not plain sailing for the men who refused their lady loves. Tradition has it that if a man refusesd the proposal of his lover on a Leap Day then he had to buy her either a dress or a pair of gloves made of silk. Given the cost of silk in Ireland, it seems likely that many would have taken the option to marry.
There is another, slightly more practical theory on the origins of the Leap Day proposals. No marriages were permitted to take place during Lent, and since the start of Lent comes around the end of February, it was a way to guarantee that you would not be left in singledom for a further 40 days and nights.
The tradition of Leap Day proposals is still upheld in modern Ireland. On the 29th of February 2000, Claudette Campbell proposed to her partner of 14 years, Richard Walsh on an observation deck in Dublin city. The proposal was broadcast live on national radio station TodayFM. Richard said yes.
In the same year, newsreader Claire McCollum proposed to her partner, Ulster rugby player Alastair Clarke live on air on County Down based station, Downtown Radio. He also said yes.
Wherever the tradition came from, it has become a fixture on the Irish Folklore calendar. So gentlemen be warned, if your partner suggests a romantic dinner on February 29th, either be prepared to say yes or start shopping for a silk dress.