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According to English law, February 29th was ignored and had no legal status. Folks assumed that traditions would also have no status on that day. It was also reasoned that since the leap year day existed to fix a problem in the calendar, it could also be used to fix an old and unjust custom that only let men propose marriage.

This idea spread and was soon accepted through much of Europe. However, like many legal tangles, there was also a penalty if a man chose to avoid this one. If he refused the woman’s proposal he had to pay a fine—from a kiss to a new silk dress. In Denmark, it was 12 pairs of gloves.

Paying a penalty could become an expensive proposition for a young man who might expect to receive more than one proposal. (Today we’d call him “a player” and it seems like just compensation.) (He could always move to Greece where it’s considered unlucky to get married in a leap year.)

Buzzle.com has an amusing page of “fun facts” including this thought: “Folks back in 1582 [when Pope Gregory amended the calendar] did not appreciate being robbed of 10 days of their lives – the calendar that year went from October 4th directly to October 15th – and protested in the streets, believing their lives would then be shorter.”

At any rate, since February 29th only comes around once in four years, it seems that since we are given a “free” day, we should do something extraordinary with it. It would also be a good day to do those things we’ve been putting off. Like cleaning out rain gutters, or contacting an old friend, or, if the shoe fits, proposing marriage (male or female).

In addition to carrying on as usual: jobs, house keeping, taxiing children, etc., maybe, we could resolve to also do something we’ve been procrastinating. After all, it’s a once-in-four-years event. Paragliding anyone?

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