This year is a full of superstition; not only is it predicted that the Earth will come to its end in December but it is also a leap year. Now, I am going to ignore the fact that we may only have a few months left before humanity is wiped off the face of the planet; and concentrate on the other event which is surrounded by its own folk traditions.
Leap years occur once every four years in order to keep the calendar year synchronised with the astronomical or seasonal year. And this means that this month (February) will have an extra day pasted to its end, and what is the technical term for the 29th February? It is known as an intercalary leap day, see, you have learnt something already.
And this extra day supports plenty of folk laws and old traditions.
In Britain, it used to be tradition that a woman could not propose marriage to her partner unless it was on the leap day. Obviously this is an old and out-dated folk-tradition but some people still use it as an opportunity to make that proposal.
This tradition is also found in Denmark, however, if a man refuses the woman’s proposal she must be compensated with 12 pairs of gloves. Why? I do not know. Oh, and in Finland if the man refuses the proposal on the leap day, he has to buy her fabrics for a skirt. Now, if I were a woman in ye-olde Denmark or Finland (there is something I never thought I would write), I would be going around proposing to everyone on the leap day. I mean, you can never have enough pairs of gloves and fabric.
Greece has gone the other way with regards to marriage and leap years. In fact, one in five engaged Greek couples will actively decide not to marry during a leap year because it is deemed very bad luck to do so.
So, we know that for some reason there are a lot of marriage links to leap years, whether they be good or bad, but what do you do if you are born on the 29th February? I mean you can’t have a birthday once every four years, you will stay young forever.
It is usual for people born on the intercalary leap day to simply move their birthday to the 28th Feb or the 1st March. Oh and if you are born on a leap day, you get the unfortunate title of being a ‘leapling’ or a ‘leaper’. The Civil Code of the Republic of China, since 10 October 1929 , has implied that the legal birthday of a ‘leapling’ is February 28 in common years.
So, all this really means for the majority of people is that February is a little longer, but spare some thought for those leapers out there who can actually celebrate their birthday on the 29th for the first time in four years.