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Friday, February 29, 2008

Traditions of Yore

Today we are gifted with an extra day. Exactly how much of a gift it is depends, I suppose, on the kind of day you're having. It is Leap Year Day. In eras past it might have been anticipated with terror by those Peter Pan type fellows who suffered from terminal bachelorhood.

Leap Year Day has long been viewed as the one day of the year it is socially acceptable for a woman to propose marriage to a man.

There is no record as to exactly how and when this tradition started though it is a fairly wide held belief that it began as early as the 5th century in Ireland. According to legend St. Bridget, modern feminista that she was, complained to St. Patrick that women had to wait and wait and wait for a fellow to propose to her. St. Patrick, likely with a roll of his eyes, then declared that those yearning females could propose on this one day of the year.

Much has changed over time. Women are free to propose to their men at any time of the year without fear of the backlash of disdain and social ostracism. Well, from everyone else except their committment-phobe guy. We can also vote now!

As depicted in postcards and greeting cards popular in the early 1900's, a few pictures of which we found online for your amusement, artists obviously took great pleasure in depicting this day as one to be feared by bachelors. The women were often portrayed as comical and desperate looking characters with exaggerated features. The men were portrayed as trembling creatures or totally unsuspecting as they were about to fall victim to one of the many creative traps set by spinsters.

I haven't come across these cards anywhere in my travels but they can be considered a whimsical collectible. Not of great value but an interesting conversation piece.

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