Leap Year History


I subscribe to Goddess Gift with Goddess Musings from Sharon which is where the following comes from. I really enjoy the emails I receive that provides history of our celebrated days.  It really makes you appreciate the special days in its entirety and respect the history behind the celebration.  Enjoy!

It’s Leap Day, or Leap Year’s Day, but not as some people mistakenly think, Sadie Hawkin’s Day.

So . . . have you proposed to your favorite man today?

That tradition started with Brigid of Ireland (variously known as a goddess and a saint). On behalf of the many Irish women of the 5th century who were having to wait for a proposal of marriage while their reproductive time-clocks were ticking away, Saint Brigid intervened on the behalf and petitioned Saint Patrick for the equal right for women to do the proposing. Apparently she was convincing because he did agree, but the canny bishop must have been reluctant since he restricted the privilege to Leap Year Day alone.

It’s not too late if you have a hankering to do that. It’s leap day and you’re allowed.

I exercised my right this morning and proposed to my husband, reminding him that if he refused he’d have to pay me 12 goats in recompense. (Don’t know where the goats came from. They just popped out of my mouth.) The official fine for refusal in Denmark was 12 gloves.

Bright, Shiny Symbols

I love vintage art. Enjoy peeking back in time and seeing how far we women have come (or weep when we haven’t).



Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

This 1908 postcard says a lot about attitudes toward women, don’t you think?

The verse reads:

Maidens are eagerly waiting
Their Traps enticingly bating
For the year Nineteen nought eight
By the old laws of leap year
They can propose without fear
And pick their own choice for a mate.

Now I’m not at all certain that the attitude has totally changed that much, but at least it would no longer be politically correct. (Not that I’m always a big fan of PC, you understand.) But if you want to see politically incorrect by today’s standards, just think back to the Lil’ Abner cartoon strip that some of us, the crones in the bunch, grew up reading.

Bright, Shiny Symbols

And that’s where Sadie Hawkins comes into the story. On leap day our schools and churches often held a Sadie Hawkins dance, and it was up to the girls to ask the guys out for the date. And all that started with the story line of the cartoon strip.

One of the characters, Sadie Hawkins, lived in Dogpatch (a thinly disguised town in the Appalachian mountains, where I now live and love, was populated of course with “hillbillies”. She was characterized as the “homeliest gal in all them hills”. As she approached the ancient age of 35, her father despaired. It seemed he had a spinster on his hands. (In this way the cartoon strip seems just a poor man’s version of Downton Abby.)

As the leader of the community, he declared a footrace to be held. Here were the rules he laid down:

“When ah fires [my gun], all o’ yo’ kin start a-runnin! When ah fires agin–after givin’ yo’ a fair start–Sadie starts a runnin’. Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husbin.”

The event was so popular with the women it was repeated year after year. If a woman caught a bachelor and dragged him, kicking and screaming, across the finish line before sundown–by law he had to marry her!

The Greek Goddess Atalanta really started it all . . .
Goddess Psyche

Now the thing that really strikes me is that this cartoon epidsode was just an inverted retelling of the myths of the Greek Goddess Atalanta. I like that telling a lot better. She may have been the uppiest of all the goddesses, but this was a woman who knew what she wanted and raced out to get it. We all could do with a lot more of that.

Find the Myths of the Goddess Atalanta and the Story of the Golden Apples here.

Enough for now, enjoy your “extra day”.

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