Every four years, to ensure that our calendars stay in line with the Earth’s progress around the sun, the shortest month of the year gains an extra day. February 29, also known as Leap day, has always been associated with legends and customs, many of them revolving around romance and marriage.
One popular tradition, originating from a legend of Irish roots, holds that on February 29 women can propose to men. The story goes that St. Brigit of Kildare lamented to St. Patrick that women were always to wait for their man to pop the question, not being allowed to propose to men themselves. Therefore, St. Patrick designated the only day that does not occur annually, as a day where women could get the chance to propose to men.
This tradition traveled all the way to England, where the British added an extra condition. If the man was to refuse, he owed her a debt of 12 pair of gloves, perhaps to hide the fact that she was not wearing an engagement ring.
A play from 1600s states that women can ditch their dresses and wear “breeches” in a leap year. It was meant as satire, but it inspired some early feminists.
Although there is no shame in being seen without a wedding ring, we would say that one can’t go wrong with 12 pair of gloves.