Friday is February 29, or “leap day,” and on this extra February day, a woman is “allowed” to propose to a man, according to folklore hinted at in a NY Times article yesterday. Well, this quick mention made me curious, so I did a bit of research, after the jump.According to LEAPzine, a website dedicated to February 29, Scotland made it legal for women to propose to men on the leap year in 1288. “But if he refuses to take her to be his lawful wife, he shall be fined in the sum of one pound or less, as his estate may be; except and always if he can make it appear that he is betrothed to another, he then shall be free,” an old Encyclopedia Brittanica article reads. Another tradition was for a man to buy a silk dress or a pair of gloves for a woman if he refused her proposal, which seems like a pretty easy way out (though I wonder if any women proposed just to get a great new dress).
And a NY Times article from 1904 covers a leap year party where at least 20 men and 10 women proposed (talk about wedding fever!), one of which is said to have gone like this: “‘Joe, we have been keeping company for four months. When are we going to be married?’ And Joe answered: ‘Any time’ll suit me.’ Then the girl said ‘Fix it for the first week in February,” and Joe said he would see where he could hire an East Side hall for some night in the week selected.”
Dorothy Dix, a widely read love and marriage journalist at the turn of the 20th century, wrote an article on the leap year proposal in another 1904 article. “Women have had to take the kind of proposal offered them or do without, and those who have suffered from this–who have seen their dreams shattered and their ideals smashed–who have had love made to them between the jolts of a street car, or across beef steak and onions at a restaurant table or in any other old place, ought to know enough to render their proposals a romance that a man will be glad to remember to the longest day he lives.”
In case you’re planning on proposing to someone this Friday, a few hotels are offering leap day specials. London’s May Fair Hotel even offers a “Leap Year Proposal Package,” complete with a Proposal Butler, whatever that is.
So, ladies, donâ€™t get nervous as February 29 approaches. This is your one and only chance to take things into your own hands! And if it doesnâ€™t work out, you can always treat yourself to a new silk dress. [NY Times "Leap Year Is Special, And Marketers Know It", LEAPzine, NY Times "Leap Year Wedding", NY Times "The Leap Year Proposal", and HotelChatter]