Women propose to their men
According to an old Irish legend, or possibly history, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every 4 years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.
In some places, Leap Day has been known as “Bachelors’ Day” for the same reason. A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day. In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.
Famous birthdays and events
Celebrity Leap Day birthdays
- 1468 – Pope Paul III (d. 1549)
- 1792 – Gioacchino Rossini, Italian composer (William Tell, The Barber of Seville) (d. 1868)
- 1896 – Morarji Desai, former Indian prime minister (d. 1995)
- 1916 – Dinah Shore, American singer (d. 1994)
- 1924 – Al Rosen, American baseball player
- 1924 – Carlos Humberto Romero, former president of El Salvador
- 1960 – Anthony (Tony) Robbins, American motivational speaker
- 1964 – Lyndon Byers, Canadian hockey player
- 1972 – Antonio Sabàto Jr, Italian-born actor
- 1976 – Ja Rule, American rapper and actor
- 1980 – Chris Conley, American musician and songwriter/composer
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the only verified example of a family producing three consecutive generations born on February 29 is that of the Keogh family.
Peter Anthony was born in Ireland on February 29, 1940, while his son Peter Eric was born on the Leap Day in the United Kingdom (UK) in 1964. His daughter, Bethany Wealth, was, in turn, born in the UK on February 29, 1996.
In Scotland, it used to be considered unlucky for someone to be born on Leap Day, just like Friday 13th is considered an unlucky day by many. In Greece it’s said to be unlucky for couples to marry during a Leap Year, and especially on Leap Day.
Anthony – Leap Year Capital of the World
Anthony, Texas, in the United States, is known as the “Leap Capital of the World”. Every leap year, this tiny town hosts the Worldwide Leap Year Festival.
Leap year birthday festivals
Since 1988, Anthony throws birthday festivals every leap year for people born on February 29. People throughout the USA and overseas travel to this tiny town to take part in parades, birthday dinners, and hot air balloon lifts.
Participants range from babies celebrating their first birthday to people in their 90s celebrating another leap day birthday. In 1992 a man registered his 104-year-old mother, born on a leap day, for the festival.
In 1988 local resident Mary Ann Brown and her neighbor Birdie Lewis, both born on a leap day, approached the Chamber of Commerce with the idea of a leap year festival and a leap year birthday club for those born on a leap day.
They wanted to give the town local recognition and to help raise funds for the community. In February 1988 the town’s Chamber of Commerce voted to sponsor the festival and did so until 2011. The governors of both New Mexico and Texas later declared Anthony the “Leap Year Capital of the World”.
Leap and Bound
Usually, people born on a leap day simply choose to celebrate their birthdays on Feb. 28 or March 1. But sometimes the missing day can lead to tragedy. In the famous Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Pirates of Penzance, a main character is locked into a life-long apprenticeship with a pirate crew when he realizes his contract releases him on his twenty-first birthday–and because he’s a leapling, that won’t come around until his eighties.