Leap Year - Feb 29th
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
In the year 1288, Scotland established this day in history, Leap Day in Leap Year, and only this day, as one when a woman could propose marriage to a man. In the event he refused the proposal, the man was required to pay a fine.
According to legend, in 5th century Ireland, St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait so long for a man to propose. St. Patrick at once remedied the situation with a leap-year loophole. He declared 29 February, occurring every four years during a leap year, a day that women could propose to men.
Scotland became the first to codify St. Patrick’s declaration into law in 1288. According to the Scottish law, any man who declined a proposal in a leap year must pay a fine, ranging from a kiss to a pair of gloves to a silk dress to £100. The leap year legend spread and soon polite society was holding leap year balls and leap year dances, organised for women to ask men to dance and to ask for a man’s hand in marriage.
In the US, the tradition evolved into Sadie Hawkins Day, named after the man-chasing character in the Al Capp cartoon strip Li’l Abner and held in November. Though the day is different than the original Scottish rendition, the practice is the same: women pursue men, for a date or for marriage.
In the U.S. and Canada, this concept was popularized by establishing dance events to which the woman invited a man of her choosing, instead of demurely waiting for a man to ask her. The first known such event was held on November 9, 1938. Within a year, hundreds of similar events followed suit. By 1952, the event was reportedly celebrated at thousands of high school and college campuses
See below a video of the dance being performed by the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, Seattle Branch Social Dance, 2012.
And for more on Sadie Hawkins Day, click the Li'l Abner comic cover.