Wednesday is February 29.
Ladies, start your engines.
Tradition has it that during Leap Year, the woman does the chasing. And the proposing.
In other words... All the single ladies: Put a ring on it!
Sounds kinda quaint and whacky here and now in the 21st century year 2012, what with equal pay for equal work (Oh. Wait) and women's right to choose and protect herself no longer at issue (Oh. Oh. Wait. Wait.) But still. When she can rent out the Jumbotron and hire a plane to write words of everlasting love across the sky... not to mention pick out something to nestle in that small, pale blue box... it hardly seems necessary anymore.
But, oh, what fun!
It's unclear where or when this singular phenomenon arose.
Some say St. Patrick, annoyed with impatient women, started the tradition in 5th century Ireland. I'm not sure about this. Although the wearin' of "Kiss Me, I'm Irish Buttons" on St. Patrick's Day might, in fact, lead to well-oiled propositions.
Another tale has it that Queen Margaret of Scotland passed a law in 1288 that levied fines ranging from a kiss to a silk gown if a man refused a woman's proposal of marriage. This seems unlikely since Queen Margaret was only five years old in 1288 and was living in Norway at the time.
Personally, I love the idea of compensation to ease the pain of rejection. While a broken heart is not so easily stitched together, Finnish men are supposed to buy the woman they've refused enough fabric for the sewing of a skirt. And Danish men are supposed to spring for 12 pairs of gloves if they otherwise refuse to take the leap.
And, speaking of skirts, by the early 20th century, when the idea seems to have taken hold in the United States, women were supposed to wear red petticoats to give fair warning. Not sure about the warning aspects of this, but sexy scarlet lingerie to this day acts like a cape waved in front of bull.
Then there is Sadie Hawkins Day. This was popularized in 1937 in Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip.
In Li'l Abner, Sadie Hawkins was "the homeliest gal in all them hills" and the daughter of Dogpatch's earliest settler, Hekzebiah Hawkins. So when Sadie turned 35, and her father feared he'd have her living at home for the rest of their lives, he declared "Sadie Hawkin Day." All the unmarried men of Dogpatch would engage in a foot race with Sadie as their...um...prize. They were to start running when he fired his gun. Sadie started running when he fired again:
"Th' one she ketches'll be her husbin."
This became a yearly tradition in Dogpatch (although it first occurred in the comic strip in November), but became so popular schools and organizations began holding "Sadie Hawkins Dances" and other activities.
On, you guessed it, February 29.