Are You a Leaper?

If your birthday is today, then you are a leaper. 

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How we love oddities, like a date that only happens every 4 years.  And since we also love to create traditions, Leap Day has its own.

Back in 5th century Ireland, St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick (the patron saint of that fair land) that women had to wait for men to propose to them.  Eventually Patrick set February 29th as a day that women had the right to pop the question themselves.  So does that make St. Patrick a feminist? 

Silk Dress_2475010The tradition was embellished in 13th century Scotland by Queen Margaret, who declared that not only could a woman ask for a man's hand in marriage, but that if he refused, he would incur a fine of a kiss, a silk dress, or money.

At some point, among the upper classes of Europe, men who turned down a leap day proposal were required to give the lady 12 pairs of gloves. Why gloves?  So that she could  hide her embarassment over her ring-less fingers!

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The American version of this tradition is Sadie Hawkins Day, created by Al Capp in his Lil' Abner cartoon in 1937.  The story goes (www.lil-abner.com) that Sadie Hawkins was the "homeliest gal in the hills" of Dogpatch, and her father feared having her live in his home for the rest of her life.  So he declared the first Sadie Hawkins Day race, in which unmarried women chased the town's bachelors, who were compelled to marry any woman who caught them.

Over the next few years, the event became popular throughout the nation.  Long before the feminist movement, Sadie Hawkins Day became a rite of empowerment for women in high school and college.  Although the race itself morphed into a dance, the tradition was that girls/women would ask the boy/man of their choice out on a date.  Al Capp responded to the enormous popularity of Sadie Hawkins Day by making it an annual event in the comic strip for four decaces.

In a broader sense, Leap Day is a day to take a leap of faith, to "push your personal envelope in as fun a way you can come up with." (The Serotonin Factory)  As you conpemplate how to celebrate this day, remember what a revolutionary idea it was in 1937 that a woman could actually ask a man out on a date!

So set out to take some risks today.  Get wildly creative–it is good for the sole, and makes for great art, good relationships, and joyful living!    Even if you weren't born on February 29th, you can be a leaper, too!

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