6 leap year traditions from around the world

Happy black woman proposing to her boyfriend in the living room. leap year
Women proposing to their partner is a common leap year tradition. (Getty Images) (skynesher via Getty Images)

Every four years our calendars have one more day added to them, a phenomenon known as a leap year.

Yet, while many see it as an extra day of the week, some countries around the world have age old traditions celebrating the additional 24 hours.

For example, Kildare in Ireland is known for originating the leap year tradition of women proposing to men rather than the other way around.

And a town in Texas welcomes people with leap year birthdays from all across the globe for its quadrennial ‘leapers’ festival, according to research from Booking.com.

Read on for six leap year traditions from around the world.

Women proposing to their partners

Origin: Kildare, Ireland

Quite possibly the most popular leap year tradition sees the engagement tables turn as a leap day ‘allows’ a woman to propose to a man in a heteronormative relationship rather than the other way around.

The custom hales from Kildare in Ireland, and is believed to date back to the 5th century where Saint Brigid of Kildare lamented that women had to wait too long for men to propose, so the day became known as ‘Ladies Privilege’.

‘Leapers’ festival

Origin: Texas, US

The town of Anthony, on the Texas-New Mexico border, is the self-proclaimed ‘Leap Year Capital of the World’. Now, every four years, people born on the 29th of February – also known as ‘leapers’ – congregate here for a festival filled with live music and local food to celebrate their rare birthdays.

Anthony, on the Texas-New Mexico border, is the self-proclaimed Leap Year Capital of the World. (Getty Images)
Anthony, on the Texas-New Mexico border, is the self-proclaimed Leap Year Capital of the World. (Getty Images)

Birch tree gifts

Origin: Rhineland-Palatinate state, Germany

The charming wine town of Traben-Trarbach, along the Mosel River in the Rhineland region of Germany, has a similar tradition to female leap year proposals.

The custom goes that, on the eve of May Day – the first Monday in May – boys with a crush place a small birch tree decorated with ribbons on the doorstep of the person they like. However, during a leap year, girls leave the trees at their crush’s doorsteps instea.

Pig trotter noodles to prevent death

Origin: Taichung, Taiwan

According to legend, Taiwanese elders believe they are more likely to meet the grim reaper during a leap year. So, to increase their chance of survival, it is customary for daughters to cook pig trotter noodles for their parents – a dish that is said to bring good health and fortune.

The noodles are served long and uncut to symbolise longevity. In Taichung, superstition dictates that the bowls the noodles are served in need to be turned around before diners can eat the contents as it represents a complete turn of luck.

Taiwanese traditional food pork knuckle with vermicelli on wooden table background.
Pork trotter noodles are consumed by Taiwanese elders. (Getty Images) (insjoy via Getty Images)

‘Engagement’ cocktail

Origin: London, UK

Nearly a century ago, in 1928, bartender Harry Craddock invented a cocktail to mark the Savoy’s leap day celebrations.

The cocktail contained gin, orange liqueur, sweet vermouth and a dash of lemon juice. The resulting bittersweet drink is now said to be responsible for more proposals than any other cocktail created.

Rare newspaper

Origin: Paris, France

The French capital sees a satirical newspaper published just ons every four years, hitting newsstands for one day only on the 29th of February, making it the least-frequently published newspaper in the world.

Called ‘La Bougie du Sapeur’, it was first published in 1980 and often contains fake adverts and satirical stories.

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