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Leap Year Proposals

My love ’tis Leap Year,

You know, I suppose

That it gives a Spinster

A chance to propose . . .


On the shelf and feel like you’d like to get taken down and dusted? Well girls it’s Leap Year and tradition says it’s now your one-in-four-year chance to propose to the man in your life.


You can thank – or blame – the Irish, for St Brigid is said to have debated the idea with St Patrick that women should have the chance to propose to men too timid or reluctant to ask.


St Patrick agreed, saying once every seven years but, good woman that she was, our Brigid beat him down to four and then promptly proposed. St Patrick declined but gave her 12 pairs of gloves or a silk gown, depending on which version of the story you heard. Just as the extra day balanced the years, so this would balance matrimonial prospects for women said St Brigid.


Here in Scotland not to be outdone, Queen Margaret said that any man asked, if not already betrothed, had to accept or pay a big fine, or buy the girl a silk gown. At least in Scotland the guys got the red flannel petticoat rule, a kind of a Leap year off-side rule: the lass doing the proposing has to wear said garment with the hem on show to let him know she’s coming.


Unfortunately all these tales don’t stand up to scrutiny; time lines don’t run true and no-one can figure out which Queen Margaret it was.


But in these days of gender equality does it have to be just the girls doing the asking of the boys? How about a new rule: if you want to – and they’re not asking – just go ahead and pop the question yourself.


The science behind it all:

It takes Earth 365¼ days, give or take about a dozen minutes, to orbit the sun and after a few centuries or so time and date are going to slip; Bonfire Night is going to start heading towards your summer holidays, which is no good at all.

The Leap Year with its extra day gets lobbed in to keep the good old Gregorian calendar in sync with the solar year.

Most dates that divide evenly by four are Leap years – but watch out for the century years; they are only Leap Years if they can be divided evenly by 400.

It’s all down to those pesky dozen minutes; well actually 11 minutes and 14 seconds, if you turn your back on them for 125 years they add up to another day.

So, as a final tweak, the century rule was added.

This gets rid of three Leap Years every few hundred years; the calendar and sun stay synchronised to within a half-minute.

Leap Years were first used by the Romans and the Julian calendar had them as well as the Gregorian calendar still in use today.