Sunday, February 28, 2016

Welcome to Sadie Hawkins Day (of sorts) Thirty days hath September

On this last Monday of February, a little whimsy:

First a song we learned in school, this is an old version that was traditionally sung (source unknown):
Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Except February alone,
Which has twenty-eight, in fine,
And each leap year twenty-nine.

Do you remember Sadie Hawkins Day? It was first mentioned in the November 15, 1937 Li'l Abner daily strip, is a spin-off of the tradition that gives women the “right” to propose to a man, every four years. Al Capp changed the date and turned the event into a race, with the race actually taking place between November 19 and November 30.

The tradition of a woman proposing on a leap year has been attributed to various historical figures. One, although much disputed, was St Bridget in the 5th Century. She is said to have complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose. St Patrick then supposedly gave women a single day in a leap year to pop the question - the last day of the shortest month.

The right of every women to propose on 29th February each leap year goes back hundreds of years when the leap year day had no recognition in English law (the day was 'leapt over' and ignored, hence the term 'leap year'). It was decided that the day had no legal status, meaning that a break in tradition on this day was acceptable.

So on this day women can take advantage of this anomaly and propose to the man they wish to marry.

The practice of women proposing in a leap year is different around the world. In Denmark, it is not supposed to be 29 but 24 February, which hails back to the time of Julius Caesar. A refusal to marry by Danish men means they must give the woman 12 pairs of gloves. In Finland, it is not gloves but fabric for a skirt and in Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky, leading many couples to avoid it.

In Scotland, however, to ensure success, women should also wear a red petticoat under their dress - and make sure that it is partly visible to the man when they propose.

For those wishing to take advantage of this ancient tradition, 29th February is your day!

Other interesting things about this day:
Why is February 29, not February 31, a leap year day? All the other months have 30 or 31 days, but February suffered from the ego of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Under Julius Caesar, February had 30 days, but when Caesar Augustus was emperor, he was peeved that his month - August - had only 29 days, whereas the month named after his predecessor Julius - July - had 31. "He pinched a couple of days for August to make it the same as July. And it was poor old February that lost out

Every fourth year is a leap year, as a rule of thumb. But that's not the end of the story. A year that is divisible by 100, but not by 400, is not. So 2000 was a leap year under the Gregorian calendar, as was 1600. But 1700, 1800 and 1900 are not leap years. There's a good reason behind it.
The year is 365 days and a quarter long - but not exactly. If it was exactly, then you could say it was every four years. But it is very slightly less." The answer arrived at by Pope Gregory XIII and his astronomers when they introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582, was to lose three leap days every 400 years. The maths has hung together ever since.

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