It’s true! Did you know, that there’s a belief and a legend that if a girl proposes a guy on the 29th of February, he cannot refuse her! While it is only a superstition today, it was an actual custom and an order that was passed in the older times. So yes, in our dear patriarchal ancient society, a woman got to express her feelings once – every four years! Though there are many countries that still follow it, Ireland is one of the most famous countries for following this tradition. There’s even a movie on the tradition and though meaningless, it is still believed in by many women who use it as an excuse to express their feelings and finally get the man of their dreams!
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But then, how exactly did this tradition originate and why? It is believed that it originated in Ireland itself in the 5th century when St. Brigid of Kildare once complained to St. Patrick that men took too long to propose and that, they wanted to do it themselves. As it was against tradition and a man was supposed to ask a woman’s hand in marriage, St Patrick decreed that on 29th February, one year in 4 years, women will be able to go down on their knees and propose their partners. Quite an advanced ruling this. We’re sure the feminists almost fainted in pleasure back then on hearing of this! The tradition became so popular that in Ireland, there would be the entire town square full of women waiting to propose their lovers. Some versions also say that when St. Brigid proposed St. Partick, he refused but then gave her a silk gown and since then, if a man refuses a woman, he has to present her with a silk gown.
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It is said that the people travelling from Ireland then carried to Scotland where this tradition became famous too. However, in Scotland, the tradition took a slightly different turn where the woman was supposed to wear a red petticoat under her skirts so that the man knows that she’s about to propose him. Scotland took the law a little further and decreed that the man would have to pay a fine if he refused to woman. But then, the fine was not huge or monetary – he would have to give her a kiss or some clothing or jewellery accessory to soften the blow and make her feel better.
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Slowly, the law passed over to all of England and in various regions, the guy actually had to gift the girl 12 pairs of gloves so that she could hide her bare fingers each day with a new glove and escape the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring! Though many now rubbish these legends and say that the age differences between St Patrick and St Brigid could never have allowed them to be friends (St Brigid was just 9 or 10 when St Patrick passed away), it remains a fun tradition, one which girls love to take advantage of and use to it’s fullest every 29th February! So then, who will you be proposing today?