Apart from being the year of the Olympics, the leap year in Australia has very little meaning historically or culturally. Leap years exist because it takes the Earth 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds to orbit the sun. That’s almost an extra quarter of a day per year. If you count the quarter of a day up for each year, you get an extra day added every fourth year.
If we didn’t use leap years, our calendars would be off by approximately 25 days after 100 years. Even with all that complexity, the method isn’t perfect. Leap years are skipped on century years that are evenly divided by 100 (like 1900 and 2100). They’re not, however, skipped on century years that are evenly divided by 400 (like 2000 and 2400). Clear as mud, right?
Around the world, however, there are plenty of special and somewhat strange myths surrounding leap year day – the 29th of February. We’ve done a bit of research; here are the highlights!
Apparently, being born on February 29 is extremely unlucky.
The Scottish believed that if you’re born on the Leap Day, your life will have an everlasting stream of suffering. According to an old Scottish aphorism, “leap year was ne’er a good sheep year.” The superstition that Leap Days are particularly lucky or unlucky has been debated through history and across cultures, and there’s still no clear winner. For one thing, it’s bad luck if you’re a prisoner on a one-year sentence that spans a Leap Day. Also, bad news if you work on a fixed annual salary; no extra pay for that extra day.
Or, extremely lucky.
Depending on who you ask. The odds of being born on February 29th are 1 in 1,461, or .068 per cent. Being born on Leap Day is actually rarer than being born with 11 fingers and toes (odds are 1 in 500). Surely beating out those tiny odds has got to be a little bit lucky!
On a leap day, a man can’t refuse a woman’s plea to get married?
Yup, that’s right! Women, get ready to pop the question, NOW!
According to an old Irish legend, St Brigid struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men and not just the other way around every four years. This was probably their way of “maintaining equality”.
This deal came about after Pope Gregory XIII instituted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, the idea of adding February 29th every four years seemed so ridiculous that a British play joked it was a day when ‘women should trade their dresses for “breeches” and act like men’. The play was meant as satire, but some early feminists must have been inspired; by the 1700s, women were using Leap Day to propose to the men in their lives.
The tradition—now called Bachelor’s Day or Sadie Hawkins Day—peaked in popularity in the early 1900s and continues today in the UK, where some retailers even offer discount packages to women popping the question.
It gets even weirder…
There was even a time when the unmarried Queen Margaret ordered to impose a fine for men who would deny a woman her dream marriage. We definitely wouldn’t object if that fine still applied today! The European tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this ‘tradition’.
You shouldn’t get married/divorced during a leap year.
In Greece, generally couples choose not to get married during a leap year. That makes this year a really difficult one for those working in the wedding industry. There’s also a superstition that divorced couples who are separated during a leap year will never find happiness again. Now, that’s heavy! Which brings us to the really important news…
There is an official Leap Day cocktail!
And it’s called…the Leap Day Cocktail! This colourful version of the martini was invented by pioneering bartender Harry Craddock at London’s Savoy Hotel in 1928. According to the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, “It is said to have been responsible for more proposals than any other cocktail ever mixed”… Not sure if it’s the cocktail, or the day! Whether or not you’re in the market for a wedding, you can make your own Leap Day cocktail with this delicious recipe.
Although it’s not on our menu, our mixologists at Jimmy’s Bar and Lounge would have no problem whipping you up one of these delicious concoctions this weekend!
- 2 ounces gin
- 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1/2 ounce orange liqueur (Grand Marnier)
- 1/4 ounce lemon juice
- Garnish: lemon twist
Gather the ingredients.
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, pour the gin, sweet vermouth, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
Serve and enjoy!
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