Skip to content

9 Leap Year Traditions You Didn't Know Existed

These quirky leap year customs from around the world are nothing if not fascinating.

When something only comes around once every four years, it's bound to be associated with some weird and wild superstitions, beliefs, and traditions. In the case of leap day, these often—though not always—have to do with marriage proposals, specifically ones in which women are the ones popping the question. With that in mind, here are some of the oddest leap year traditions and quirky customs from around the world.

In Scotland, women must wear a red petticoat when proposing on leap day.

Young happy woman proposing her black boyfriend during night out in a pub. There are people in the background.

According to Irish Central, this tradition is steeped in Irish folklore, when Saint Brigid of Kildare complained to Saint Patrick that women "had to wait far too long for men to propose." So women were given one day—leap day—every four years to take matters into their own hands. And in Scotland, it was a rule that women must only propose wearing a "red petticoat"—you know, if you just happen to have one of those laying around.

In Denmark, if a man refuses a proposal, he must buy the woman 12 gloves.

female leather gloves in store

Unfortunately, for men, their choice in the matter comes at a cost—if they decide not to accept a woman's proposal on leap day, that is. According to Conde Nast Traveler, many claim that Queen Margaret of Scotland passed a law in 1288 requiring the men who refused a proposal to pay a fine. In Denmark, that fine was 12 gloves, meant to be sufficient enough for that woman to hide the lack of an engagement ring on her finger.

And in Finland the penalty was enough fabric for the woman to make a skirt.

korean traditional fabric rolls at shop

Denmark is not the only country that sought to punish the men who refused a proposal, however. According to Victoria Williams' Celebrating Life Customs around the World, any Finnish man who refused a woman's proposal on leap day was "required to pay the woman a penalty of enough fabric to create a skirt."

In Germany, girls leave a tree decorated with ribbons at the home of their crush.

decorated birch tree with ribbons

In Germany, on the eve of the spring holiday May Day, it is tradition for a young boy to sneak out in the middle of the night to leave a small birch tree covered in ribbons—also known as a Liebesmaie—on the doorstep of the home of the girl he loves. When it's a leap year, however, things switch up and the girls in Germany have the opportunity to leave a decorated birch tree on their crush's doorstep.

A married daughter in Taiwan is expected to bring pig trotter noodles to her parents.

Braised pork trotter noodles

Taiwan, on the other hand, doesn't focus on romantic relationships when it comes to leap year traditions. Their's is based around parents, instead. According to Declan Lyon's The Time of Your Later Life, in Taiwan it is customary for married daughters to return home during the leap-year month to offer pig trotter noodles to their parents. Why? Apparently this wishes them "good health and fortune."

A newspaper in France only gets published once every leap year.

man reading a newspaper with french writing at the top

La Bougie du Sapeur is a comical French newspaper that was first published in 1980, and only publishes once every four years—making it the least frequently published newspaper of all time. The name translates to "sapper's candle," which comes from an old French comic book character who was born on leap day. According to NPR, the paper sells around 150,000 copies every time it's published, surpassing most of the daily newspapers in France.

Women in Illinois arrested men for being single on leap day in the 1940s.

Pair of handcuffs sitting on a wooden desk

In 1948, the women of Aurora, Illinois, took a stance against what they believed to be sexist leap day traditions by taking over male-dominated city positions such as mayor, fire chief, and police officer. What did they do with the power these jobs provided? Arrested unmarried men for "the crime of being single," reports Time magazine. And for more weird things that happened in the past, check out the 30 Crazy Facts That Will Change Your View of History.

Babies born on leap day immediately become members of an exclusive club.

Close up Mother holding hands Asian female newborn baby and sunlight in the morning. Cute little girl three weeks old. Health, care, love, relationship concept.

When you are born on February 29, you automatically get entered into an exclusive club that only consists of those born on leap day. The Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies, which got its start in 1997, connects through Facebook and even sends out leap day news and events.

Anthony, Texas made itself the "leap year capital of the world."

leap day party streamers

Ever since 1988, a city on the boarder of New Mexico and Texas has thrown a birthday festival for those born on leap day. The collaborative celebration in the towns of Anthony, Texas, and Anthony, New Mexico was proposed by resident—and leap year baby—Mary Ann Brown, and since no other city regularly sponsored a similar event, the governors of each state proclaimed Anthony the "Leap Year Capital of the World."

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
Filed Under