Why do women propose in a leap year?

Traditionally, 29 February (aka leap day) is a day for women to get on one knee and propose to their other half. It's a once-every-four-years opportunity for women to pop the question (if you subscribe to the tradition, at least), but does the leap year proposal have any historical basis?

A postcard showing for women hunting for a man with guns and dogs.

According to tradition – and what would weddings be without tradition – a leap year offers women the once-every-four-years opportunity to get on one knee and pop the question rather than wait for a man to get up his nerve. This leap year proposal switcheroo has been credited to two contenders.

Queen Margaret of Scotland was said to have passed a law in 1288 declaring that women could propose every 29 February – and that if a man refused, he had to pay a fine of a new gown, gloves or a kiss. There’s just no record of such a law, though. Another contender for coming up with the idea is an Irish nun of the sixth century, Brigid of Kildare, who is said to have pleaded with Saint Patrick that women needed a chance to propose to shy suitors.

According to tradition – and what would weddings be without tradition – a leap year offers women the once-every-four-years opportunity to get on one knee and pop the question rather than wait for a man to get up his nerve. This leap year proposal switcheroo has been credited to two contenders.

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Queen Margaret of Scotland was said to have passed a law in 1288 declaring that women could propose every 29 February – and that if a man refused, he had to pay a fine of a new gown, gloves or a kiss. There’s just no record of such a law, though. Another contender for coming up with the idea is an Irish nun of the sixth century, Brigid of Kildare, who is said to have pleaded with Saint Patrick that women needed a chance to propose to shy suitors.

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This Q&A was first published in the February 2020 edition of History Revealed