The History of Leap Year Proposals

European folklore claims February 29th is the one day a year a woman can propose to a man. (Crazy, we know.)

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Photography by: Courtesy of "Friends" via Netflix

Is February 29th, occurring only once every four years, really the one day a woman can pop the question? The short answer: No, of course not! A woman can propose whenever she wants—it is 2016, after all. But where did the idea of proposing on Leap Year come from? It turns out, the exact details are debatable, but the concept can be traced back to Europe, with most people believing it originated in Ireland.


According to folklore, the tradition began in the 5th century, when St. Brigid of Kildare complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to man up and propose to them. St. Patrick then proclaimed that women could propose on February 29th, also known as Leap Day. St. Brigid then proposed to St. Patrick on the spot but was rejected. But, because St. Patrick felt sorry for St. Brigid, he gave her a kiss on the cheek and a silk gown instead of his hand in marriage. Tradition now dictates that an Irishman who declines a proposal on Leap Day must give the woman a silk gown, so that's something. But this myth doesn't hold up too well given that according to historians, St. Brigid may have been only a young child at the time of St. Patrick's death.


Variations of the myth exist in other European countries as well. In Denmark, a man refusing a woman's Leap Day proposal must give her 12 pairs of gloves, while in Finland it's fabric for a skirt. Suddenly, we're liking the sound of rejection … However, others say that it wasn't until the 19th century, in England, that February 29th proposals became common—supposedly because the day was not recognized by law, and therefore it was fine to break the law on that day. 

The tradition has even made its way into pop culture, most notably in the Amy Adams movie Leap Year, where Amy Adams's character follows her boyfriend to Dublin to propose to him on February 29th. We've also seen women propose to men in TV shows like Friends, with Monica famously getting down on one knee to ask Chandler to marry her. 


So, there you have it. If you need an excuse to take matters into your own hands (or you could use a new pair of gloves!), maybe today's the day to pop the question to your guy. Or, you know, you could always propose to your boyfriend tomorrow (or the next day), too.

About the Author

Jane Asher

A total girly girl, Jane loves everything about the wedding-planning process, but her favorite part has to be where it all starts: the engagement ring. She's a sucker for all things sparkly, especially in diamond form and sitting on your ring finger. But she can't count out those gorgeous bridal bouquets. They may not be diamonds, but they still hold a serious wow factor. 


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