Only coming around once every four years, 29th February is a special day and one that a woman can traditionally make even more special by ‘taking the leap’ and proposing to her partner. Although in 2020 we may feel free to break with convention on any day of the year, the tradition continues to capture the imagination and we do receive enquiries about gents’ rings in the run-up to leap day.
Like many traditions, it is difficult to pin down exactly where the idea of women proposing on the 29th February originates. The most popular theory dates to the Middle Ages and suggests that Saint Bridget complained to Saint Patrick that women must wait too long for suitors to propose. He allegedly responded by saying they could – but only once every four years! This would bring a little balance to the situation in the same way that the leap day brings balance to the calendar.
An alternative story asserts that Queen Margaret of Scotland passed a law making it legal for women to propose during a leap year. Men who refused such a proposal would be fined! This fantastic ‘girl power’ tale is highly unlikely though, since Queen Margaret died at the age of eight and there is no record of any such laws.
It has also been suggested that since leap days weren’t historically recognised under English law it was deemed permissible to break with convention for the day. Wherever the tradition originates it clearly caught on and remains a part of our culture today.
Not all parts of the tradition have continued though. In the past it was thought that women taking advantage of the leap day to propose should wear breeches as they were taking on the role usually played by the man or a scarlet petticoat to match their daring! While now very much optional, such an outfit could still add drama to your proposal!
Although the Queen Margaret story is discredited, the idea that men who turn down their partner should face a penalty does have some truth. The most traditional gift for a rejected hopeful was twelve pairs of gloves, supposedly to hide her embarrassment at the lack of engagement ring!
Today there is more equality and diversity in relationships than ever before; women may propose at times outside of the leap year, and many couples forgo the romantic proposal and take the decision to get married together. It can still be nice to have fun with the leap day and reverse tradition though, especially if your partner is shy!
However you decide to take the leap we are here to help you seal it with a ring. Whether you are looking for a gents’ ring to make that leap day proposal with, a sparkling diamond for yourself afterwards or something a little bit different, we are sure to have a ring to fit the bill. Browse rings on our website or visit our showroom to see our full selection in person and take advantage of the expert advice of our team.