Have Your Proposal Ready? February 29 Is “Lady’s Privilege Day” + a Giveaway

Have Your Proposal Ready? February 29 Is “Lady’s Privilege Day” + a Giveaway

Do you have your proposal ready? It is Leap Year, and according to tradition, a woman can ask the man to marry her. But from where does this legend come?

According to the Huffington Post, “Legend has it that St. Brigid of Kildare, a fifth-century Irish nun, asked St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, to grant permission for women to propose marriage after hearing complaints from single women whose suitors were too shy to propose. Initially, he granted women permission to propose only once every seven years, but at Brigid’s insistence, he acquiesced and allowed proposals every leap day. The folk tale suggests that Brigid then dropped to a knee and proposed to Patrick that instant, but he refused, kissing her on the cheek and offering a silk gown to soften the blow. The Irish tradition therefore dictates that any man refusing a woman’s leap-day proposal must give her a silk gown.” Unfortunately, St. Brigid was only nine or ten years of age when St. Patrick died in 461. Even if we take the latest date for his demise, which is 493, a relationship between St Brigid and St Patrick is unlikely. It is said that bad luck will follow around the man who refuses the lady’s offer.  This is why it also is called ‘Bachelor’s Day’, and if a man refused a proposal from a woman on that day, he was expected to pay a penalty ~ sometimes this was a fine of £100, a silk gown, or 12 pairs of gloves so that the woman could hide the embarrassment of not wearing an engagement ring. How things have changed!




“In Scotland, Queen Margaret supposedly enacted a law in 1288 that permitted women to propose on Leap Year Day; however, the woman was to wear a red petticoat to warn her beau of her intentions. Obviously, scholars ruin the effect by pointing out that Queen Margaret was but five years of age at the time of the supposed law, nor is there any written proof such a law existed.

Sadie Hawkins from the Li'l Abner Comic Strip


“But Lynn Niedermeier, an author who has written on the history of leap-year proposals, says the tradition can actually be empowering to women. ‘You could argue that the tradition is not as ‘anti-feminist’ as it first appears. It could be seen as something that allows the ladies to shake off their cultural shackles and take charge when the objects of their affection are too inexperienced or timid to propose,’ she told HuffPost Weddings. ‘I think the leap-year tradition may have taken on a more anti-feminist cast when it got mixed up with Sadie Hawkins Day, where the idea is that women need extra help to make up for their own deficiencies, not men’s.'” [See my post on Sadie Hawkins’ Day on my Blog at reginajeffers.wordpress.com]

Time and Date tells us that in some places instead of being “Lady’s Privilege Day” Leap Year is Bachelor’s Day. “A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day. In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, 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.” 

English law gave no status to February 29. The date was often ignored for legal purposes. Therefore, it was not a “legal” day, and the normal rules of conduct did not exist, especially as they applied to marriage.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY. I HAVE TWO COPIES THE 2010 FILM (DVD) “LEAP YEAR,” starring Amy Adams (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Julie and Julia, Man of Steel, and The Fighter) and Matthew Goode (Chasing Liberty, Brideshead Revisited, Belle, The Imitation Game, Downton Abbey, and George Wickham in Death Comes to Pemberley).

The Story: When Anna’s (Amy Adams) four-year anniversary to her boyfriend passes without an engagement ring, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Inspired by an Irish tradition that allows women to propose to men on Leap Day, Anna follows Jeremy (Adam Scott) to Dublin to propose to him. But after landing on the wrong side of Ireland, she must enlist the help of the handsome and carefree local Declan (Matthew Goode) to get her across the country. Along the way, they discover that the road to love can take you to very unexpected places.


19 Responses to Have Your Proposal Ready? February 29 Is “Lady’s Privilege Day” + a Giveaway

  1. I think an author could have a lot of fun with this idea. I’m thinking of Lydia attempting to stack up as many refusals as she can muster – until someone actually accepts. Or Darcy attempting to hide from Caroline on this day yet still be available in case Lizzy follows through with a jest he overheard her make to Charlotte. I could go on and on

  2. I have seen this film. My son was born March 1st on a Leap Year so he just escaped having a birthday only once every four years. Thank you for your generosity here.

  3. I already have this DVD and plan to watch it this weekend. My son’s BD is the 28th. So glad we didn’t 29 days in the year he was born. Love this film.

  4. I really enjoyed Matthew Goode in Death Comes to Pemberley as well as Downtown Abbey. My daughter kept laughing at me during the final season of Downton as I kept muttering, “But Mary cannot possibly wed George Wickham!!”

    This movie looks adorable; I’ve never seen it, and I’d love a copy!!

    Susanne 🙂

    • My first recollection of Matthew Goode was in “Chasing Liberty” where Mandy Moore plays the president’s daughter. The President is Mark Harmon. Matthew Goode is an agent sent to protect her, but she does not realize it until she falls for him.

  5. Is Lady’s Privilege Day only in Ireland? If not, I lost multiple chances over the last 30 years. Oh well. I could picture Lydia asking a man to marry her. And maybe Elizabeth asking Darcy if the timing worked out. Maybe. Thanks for sharing!

    • Heck, I would not care if the man refused. In addition to the 12 pairs of gloves mentioned above, other sources say he also had to pay a fee of £100 and a silk gown. I could go for that!!!

  6. Great info in this post. St Brigid is the patron saint of a towns land near to where I live and her day is celebrated on the 1st of February. One tradition is to leave out an item of clothing, it’s usually a belt or scarf, and she’ll bless it as she’s passing round Ireland that night. This is then held as a remedy for headaches and sore throats and other ailments. You tie the item around the sore spot and it cures it. This is a tradition that is still upheld by a lot of people.
    Just thought I’d throw in that little snippet 🙂

  7. Oh, dear. I am trying to see both sides to this. For the women, it would be enpowering. For a shy person, it might be hard to muster up the courage. For those strong-willed women [Caroline] it would be a nightmare. For the men, it would be a day to be hidden somewhere in a cave where no one knew where he was. If several women asked him… that could get rather expensive as he paid the penalty. Poor Darcy… oh, now that would be hilarious. Run, Darcy, run. I don’t think anyone has done a Leap Year P&P trope before. What a hoot. Thank you for the generous giveaway. I actually don’t have this movie and have not seen it. How did that happen? Good luck to all in the drawing.

    • Matthew Goode is one of my favs so I saw the film when it first released, and I watched it again on TV On Demand just last week.
      As you say, any man worth a fortune or with a title would have had to hibernate on Lady’s Privilege Day.

  8. Very interesting post. Sometimes that “special guy” needs a little nudge (the woman proposing). I have heard of Sadie Hawkins Day. Thank you for the giveaway

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