The extra leap year day is upon us: what will you do with yours?

Sadly, this additional 24-hour period has been tagged on to one of the worst months of the year, requiring a leap of faith to fathom

This is the year of the Extra Day. For some reason, it has been stuck onto the still-wintry month of February, instead of giving us a June 31st, or an August 32nd, when the days are long and bright. Anyway, those born on February 29th are collectively known as “Leaplings”. They must face headaches when filling out online forms that require a date of birth.

Obviously, such an unusual day has gathered its own traditions in various locations around the world. We have the Olympics every leap year; apt for such an active verb.

In Ireland and some other European countries, women are “permitted” to propose marriage to their partners on the 29th. There is of course nothing to prevent this happening on any of the other 365 days of the year, but traditions be traditions.

If the chap says Nay, I Will Not Marry Thee, Impudent Lass (my words), there is a fine to be paid. In Scotland, it is a silk gown. In Denmark, it is 12 pairs of gloves. In Finland, it is enough fabric to make a skirt. Who actually has to make the skirt is unclear.


In Greece, it is considered unlucky to get either married or divorced in a leap year, which is certainly unfortunate for anyone in the wedding industry. As for people who separate in a leap year, they are apparently doomed never to find happiness again, which is a pretty harsh “tradition”.

Being a journalist, of course my favourite leap year thing is the fact that in France, there is a special newspaper that only comes out on that day

Things are worse in Taiwan if you are an “older” person; exact age unspecified. It is not an auspicious year. You may well die. To ward off these inauspicious heebie jeebies, daughters – of course, because God forbid a man would do any cooking – return to their family homes to rustle up a tasty dish of noodles with pigs’ trotters. These trotters will bring you good fortune, and possibly, indigestion.

Being a journalist, of course my favourite leap year thing is the fact that in France, there is a special newspaper that only comes out on that day. It is a satirical paper called La Bougie du Sapier, and sells about 150,000 copies – a definite collector’s item.

In Germany, women tie ribbons on a birch tree outside the house of the man they are fond of. Should there be a convenient birch tree already growing outside the house of this chosen man, that is.

Marketing will always be with us, and thus there is a cocktail called Leap Day. It was dreamed up in 1928 in London’s Savoy Hotel by a barman named Harry Craddock. It sounds like something you would only want to drink once every four years: Grand Marnier, sweet vermouth, gin and lemon juice.

By the time the next leap year comes around, it will be the hundredth anniversary of this Leap Year cocktail, and if they are smart in the marketing department in the Savoy, they will change the name to the Hundredth-Anniversary-Edition-Leap-Year-Cocktail, so they may serve it year-round.

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Rosita Boland

Rosita Boland

Rosita Boland is Senior Features Writer with The Irish Times. She was named NewsBrands Ireland Journalist of the Year for 2018