The Globetrotting History Of Leap Day Being A Day Of Love

Is popping the question the biggest question on your mind RN? Take a look at Leap Day traditions from around the world to ease your troubles!

Published On Feb 27, 2024 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024


Amy Adams' extensive work portraying dramatic characters with ease often foreshadows her early work with romantic comedies. But true rom-com fans know how iconic she remains in that genre. The 2010 release Leap Year is arguably one of best rom-coms out there and has garnered a cult following among cinephiles.

 The plot is simple: Amy's Anna Brady intends to journey to Dublin, Ireland, with the plan to propose to her boyfriend Jeremy on February 29, leap day. This decision aligns with Irish tradition, where it is believed that a man receiving a marriage proposal on a Leap Day is obliged to accept it. However she meets the ACTUAL man of her (and our) dreams, making things very complicated. The film is funny, heartwarming, cozy and set in the picturesque locations of Ireland, some of which have now become a popular tourist destination for couple intending to make their own proposals. 

So what is it about Leap Day that makes it such a sucker for love? Turns out not one but many cultures associate marriage, nuptials and ideas of love with Leap Day, but not always in a good way!

There are many theories floating about regarding this and has historical roots and is often linked to folklore and traditions. A popular explanation traces back to St. Bridget's deal with St. Patrick in Irish legend. According to the legend, St. Bridget confided her frustrations to St. Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose (so men have ALWAYS had commitment issues we see!). St. Patrick then supposedly designates Leap Day as a day when women could propose to men, and set a penalty for men who refused. The idea is to make role reversal easier on folk living in conservative times and might seem redundant today given women proposing (to men or other women) is more common now than before. Thus the modern Leap Day tradition of using the day to drop subtle hints to clueless partners.

Denmark has embraced the tradition as well, tendering a charming punishment on men declining a proposal: gift twelve pairs of gloves to conceal the ringless fingers of the women. Savage! In Finland though, the punishment involves gifting fabric for the creation of a skirt and that seems reasonable enough. 

It's not just the Irish who get loved up on Leap Day. In Scottish lore, Queen Margaret is credited with allowing women to propose on Leap Day, imposing a fine for refusals. And Iin Italian tradition, Leap Day is regarded as an auspicious day for weddings and engagements. While leap years and marriage proposals evoke diverse traditions worldwide, there are cultures, like Greece, that view marrying in leap years, especially on Leap Day, as harbinger of bad luck. Russia takes it a bit further and associates leap years with overall misfortune, thus avoiding major life events like nuptials. Similarly, Ukrainian traditions link leap years to superstitions, prompting some to steer clear of marriages during this time, showcasing the wide spectrum of beliefs surrounding leap years around the world. 

But regardless of which culture you hold an affinity for and what your personal belief system says, an extra day in the year begs to be recognised as special and what better way to do that than to put a ring on it?

It's not just marriage proposals that mark Leap Days in various cultures. It just so happens to be a day dedicated to expressing love and companionship, keeping up the Valentine's theme. In Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, a charming tradition unfolds on the eve of May 1, where men adorn birch trees with paper ribbons and place them outside the homes of their crushes or partners. On the subsequent Leap Day, the women can “give their answer” by doing the same. Seems like too much work to go through but if you're shy, the birch tree route seems quite romantic and frankly, cute. A town called Anthony, Texas, commemorates Leap Day birthdays with the grand Anthony Texas Festival, a three-day gig with live music, yummy foods, and craft stalls. If you're a Leap Day baby, you too can participate by RSVP-ing on the festival's website, or purchasing tickets from the platform. In Taiwan, a leap year superstition says that things can get rough for the elderly. To counter this belief, married daughters return home to prepare pig trotter soup, a symbol of good luck and longevity, serving it throughout the month, especially on February 29. One word to that: ADORABLE. 

It seems like people in love have a lot to reference on how they can spend this extra day that comes every 4 years. And if you're not into it, do what the Greeks do and take some downtime to relax and stay out of trouble!

Photo: /InstagramLeapyearthefilm