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Friday, February 12, 2016

Leap Year ~ Facts, Fun & Fiction

Surely you’ve heard myths and legends about Leap Year. 
Whereas the truth behind the existence of Feb 29th is purely astronomical, it has become a bit of an urban legend in itself. Our year can be measured by 365 days and approximately 6 hours. Therefore, every fourth year we have 366 days – an extra day to make up for the 6 extra hours over a four year period. 

Here's some of what is circulating about Leap Year:

Leap year happens every four years, when we add February 29th to the calendar. Like everything else that humans are involved in, it has become a bit a legend over the years.

This is a time when women will succeed to positions of leadership and fame.

It’s considered a year of good fortune and luck. 

Christopher Columbus (portrait above is said to be him) could attest to that while he and his crew were marooned on the island of Jamaica, where the natives had grown tired of their arrogance and had stopped bringing them food. He made use of a lunar eclipse he knew was imminent on February 29th 1504. Gathering the chiefs, he told them God would punish them if they didn't resume feeding the foreigners and would soon show them His displeasure with a sign in the sky. As the eclipse moved in and the moon darkened, they grew terrified of God's wrath and the stranger's potent magic. They agreed to feed the crew again and of course the eclipse started to clear. There were no further problems with the locals while they were stuck on the island.

Leap year is when you should expect the unexpected. The entire year is full of surprises and usually the opposite of what you expect is what will happen.

Nowadays, women propose whenever they wish, but that was not always the case. It used to be unheard of for a woman to propose to a man. Only on February 29th could women propose marriage. 

Slemish Mountain, Co. Antrim where St Patrick is said to have shepherded as a slave
The tradition is said to have begun in 5th century Ireland when something known as St. Bridget’s Complaint argued that women were having to wait too long to be asked to marry. St. Patrick gave permission for women to propose to the man they desired every February 29th. Just one day every four years! 

St. Brigid of Kildare
Fast forward to 13th century Scotland. Women were encouraged to wear red petticoats when proposing, and to make sure the object of their affection could see it beneath their skirts. If a man rejected a proposal made on Feb 29th he had to pay a fine. Usually it was a kiss or a dozen pairs of gloves, so the embarrassed woman could hide the fact there was no ring on her finger.

It is said that back in the day, Feb 29th was not recognized by English Law. Therefore, it was a day beyond the law and without legal status. Spunky women took advantage of it to make their proposals.

I saw a sweet movie called Leap Year that was filmed around 2010, starring Amy Adams. She played a young woman who traveled to Ireland – and then across the island – to propose to her love on that special date.

In Greece, it is considered unlucky to marry on February 29th while in Finland women are encouraged to propose only on February 29th for good fortune. 

Whether leap year proposals are considered auspicious or inauspicious depends on who you ask. It's all in good sport, and at the same times gives us another snapshot into how women were viewed and treated hundreds of years ago.

As romance authors, our vivid imaginations can conjure all sorts of love stories unfolding into marriage proposals on that quirky day.

And since St. Patrick’s Day is just a hop, skip and a leap (no pun intended) from February 29th, I thought I’d mention my sweet romance, To Kiss A Leprechaun. This magical love story speaks of kisses, marriages and fantasy such as one can only find in mythical Ireland. 

Do you have any Leap Year stories to share with us? Do you know a woman who proposed on February 29th?

GEMMA JULIANA writes all kinds of love stories, from contemporary to paranormal. She has a penchant for romantic international settings. Gemma lives in a cozy cottage in Texas with her very own hero, teen son, and a dog who rules them all. Chocolate and coffee nourish her muse and fuel her creativity. She loves hearing from readers.


Cara Marsi said...

Love this, Gemma. I had forgotten that women were allowed to propose in a Leap Year. I saw that movie with Amy Adams. Really liked it. I hope I get some good surprises this year, not the bad ones that hit me last year. I've got to read your leprechaun story. I love your stories.

jean hart stewart said...

Loved your post. I had a friend who was a leap-year baby and really got shortchanged on birthday parties. He thoroughly resented that as a child...Let's all hope for good surprises this year for all of us.

Melissa Keir said...

What a great informative post! I didn't realize all the facts about Leap Year!

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