Special days, special traditions…

Leap years are infrequent visitors – they come once in every four years and bring with them an extra 24 hours to the 365-day cycle. The history of the leap year and the leap day takes us back to 45BC when Julius Caesar was the law of the land in Rome. In order to unify the different calendars being used across the region, old man Caesar took a page out of the Egyptians’ book and calculated that the year is 365.25 days long, so an extra day every four years.

The calendar since then has evolved and transformed, but the Julian Calendar is still the basis of the Gregorian Calendar, and cultures around the world have found ways to mark this special day. Read on and find out all the cool, quirky leap day traditions.

Women propose to men

Well, technically, women can propose to men at anytime and anywhere they want – but the lore of female proposals is strong on leap day and we’re not entirely sure why. The tradition is primarily British and Irish dating back to fifth-century Ireland, when the patroness saint of Ireland, Saint Bridget convinced Saint Patrick that women should have an assigned day every four years to propose to their partners because some of them were tired of waiting around for men to propose. This became known as ‘Ladies’ Privilege’ or ‘Bachelor’s Day’.

leap year

But getting married is a no-no

Proposals? Hell yes. Getting married? Big no-no. In the neighbouring countries of Greece and some other cultures, tying the knot on February 29 was considered bad luck and thought to lead to divorce. While scientific grounding never arrived to this superstition party, countries like Scotland and Italy also considered leap years generally unlucky.

And if you refuse that proposal…

You’re dropping some heavy bucks. That was the custom. Refusing a female suitor’s proposal on leap day meant men had to make up for it by showering them with expensive gifts, including buying them 12 pairs of gloves so they could hide their engagement-ring-less hands. What can we say? You refuse the ice, you pay the price.

You can read a super rare newspaper

La Bougie du Sapeur is the only newspaper in the world that you can read once every four years. The satirical French publication is published only on February 29 and quite hilariously, flaunts the title of the least frequently published newspaper in the world. The 20-page tabloid was launched in 1980 and has been named after a local comic book character born on a leap day. The contents read exactly as that of a regular newspaper, albeit with humorous commentary, with sections organised into politics, sport, international affairs, arts, puzzles and celebrity gossip, which perhaps is the best part of this whole irony.

Celebrate your ‘Leapling’ status

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If you didn’t know there was a thing such as a leap year capital, then you do now. The city of Anthony in Texas is called the Leap Year Capital of the world. How does one qualify for such a title, you may wonder. The city hosts a Leap Year Festival every leap year, where people with leap day birthdays can come together and celebrate their leapling status. Here you will find music, food and fun activations for the whole family. This year, the festival is taking place on March 1 and 2.

Sip on a special Leap Day cocktail

From the archives of bartending legend Harry Craddock, who mixed drinks to perfection for many a year at London’s The Savoy, comes the Leap Year cocktail. His original creation, it was published in the 1930 book, The Savoy Cocktail Book, which saw a collection of 750 iconic recipes which he put together. The recipe is widely available online, but the star ingredient is gin.

Images: Getty