The Leap Year Proposal Tradition: A 2020 Outlook
As we approach 29 February 2020, it seems apt to explore leap year marriage proposals. Although it’s possible that you thought it was a myth, it’s actually a well-established Irish tradition that a leap year provides one day every four years in which a woman can propose to a man. So, what’s the origin of one of the most well-known parts of Irish folklore, and how can leap year proposals be incorporated into modern society?
The Origin: St. Patrick
If you’re wondering how the tradition of women proposing to men on Leap Day first began, most versions of the Irish tale suggest that it originated with St. Patrick during the fifth century. St. Brigid of Kildare is said to have informed the patron saint of Ireland that women were expected to wait too long for men to propose, and the societal gender roles were imbalanced in this respect. They agreed to create one day during which women could propose to men, and the choice of 29 February is believed to have been chosen to reflect the fact that the Leap Year is designed to balance calendars.
A Part of Scottish Law
In 1288, a law was passed in Scotland to establish this tradition as part of their culture too. The tradition, which had been brought to Scotland by Irish monks, also stated that if a man declines his loved one’s proposal on Leap Day, then he must pay a fine.
The Fine for Declining a Leap Year Proposal
The fine for declining a woman’s Leap Day proposal varied depending on the culture of the individual couple. In Irish folklore, it is widely-believed that the aforementioned St. Brigid, a fellow patron saint of Ireland, asked St. Patrick to marry her immediately after the law was agreed. However, this is sometimes doubted based on the dates of their respective births and deaths, as Brigid is likely to have been a child at the time when their discussion took place. Patrick is believed to have politely declined Brigid’s proposal, subsequently giving her a kiss on the cheek and presenting her with a silk gown to mitigate any hard feelings. This led to different traditions of fines for turning down female proposals on 29 February.
In certain affluent European societies, declining a proposal on Leap Day, which is known in some cultures as Bachelors’ Day due to the tradition, was a more costly exercise. The custom in these countries was to purchase 12 pairs of gloves for the female whose proposal you decided to refuse. This was considered to be the usual fine, as it enabled her to conceal any embarrassment over not possessing a ring to wear on her wedding finger. Some cultures prefer to adhere to the consequence within the original Irish story, and require the Bachelor to buy a silk dress for the women he is deemed to have rejected. However, less expensive fines adopted across the world have included a kiss for the lady, as per the original Irish folklore, or even giving her £1.
A 2020 Outlook
Whilst the cultural custom offers female traditionalists a way to propose to their male partners, it’s now more widely accepted that women do not need to wait for a specific day every four years to propose. It’s gradually become less unusual for a woman to ask her partner to marry her instead of waiting for him to ask the question himself.
In modern society, it’s also more likely compared to previous time periods that couples will live together before becoming engaged. If you’d like to show your commitment but you’re not quite ready to ask your loved one to marry you, then presenting them with a sterling silver keyring to symbolise that you would like to live together would “bee” very romantic.
Perhaps you’re looking to purchase luxury cufflinks, so your future husband is dressed for the occasion when your wedding day actually happens, or you’d like to show your loved one that you’ve thought about your future together and cannot see yourself with anyone other than her. Giving your future wife a sterling silver ring as a promise ring or a piece of bespoke jewellery to signify your unique relationship is an ideal way to demonstrate a new level of commitment.
What about the idea of proposing to your loved one with a unique ring that they are definitely going to want to show off? Our brand new statement rings are perfect for this leap year tradition. Meet our grumpy gorilla. This sterling silver ring depicts a fearsomely handsome gorilla featuring cognac diamond eyes. Hand crafted for real depth and definition, this ring has an oxidised finish for that ultra stylish look.
As England’s most well-established jewellery manufacturers, our experienced team can provide expert advice on how to choose the perfect fine jewellery for your loved one. Please contact us for more information about the luxury products we offer.