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Taking the leap

Happy Leap Day! Every four years we have a leap day, February 29, where the shortest month of the year becomes...still the shortest month of the year. But because it occurs during a Leap Year, we have 366 days instead of 365. If, like me, you missed this tidbit in school, I decided to look into why we have Leap Year in the first place. According to Wikipedia, "Because seasons and astronomical events do not repeat in a whole number of days, a calendar that had the same number of days in each year would, over time, drift with respect to the event it was supposed to track. By occasionally inserting an additional day or month into the year, the drift can be corrected."

Growing up, I associated Leap Day with the tradition where women were allowed to propose marriage to their beaus, also known as Sadie Hawkin's Day. But, upon further inspection, while this tradition is factual, Leap Day is not, in fact, Sadie Hawkin's Day. That moniker was created by Al Capp's hillbilly comic strip, L'il Abner. In the comic, Sadie Hawkins was the "homeliest gal in all them hills." Apparently, when she reached the age of 35 and was still unmarried, her father created "Sadie Hawkins Day," calling together all the unmarried men to compete in a foot race. Sadie was to pursue the town's eligible bachelors and if she caught one, he'd have to marry her. Lovely. I'm sure all these men were real keepers, too.

But if you've ever been to a Sadie Hawkin's Dance, where the girls ask the boys to be their dates, now you know the origin.

Leap Year, has also adopted this similar tradition, albeit without the footrace. Possibly started in the British Isles, this tradition allows women to propose marriage but only on leap years. "Supposedly, a 1288 law by Queen Margaret of Scotland, required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man; compensation ranged from a kiss to f1 to a silk gown, in order to soften the blow."

Even more interesting, other countries have their own takes:

1. In Denmark, women may propose on the bissextile leap day, February 24, and that refusal must be compensated with 12 pairs of gloves.

2. In Finland, if a man refuses a woman's proposal on leap day, he should buy her the fabrics for a skirt.

3. In Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky.

Now, in today's world, this tradition, like so many, seems outdated and sexist. But we'd still love to know if you've ever observed Sadie Hawkin's Day, proposed on Leap Day, or just taken the lead in asking out your man. Tell us here.

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