Leap years are also marked as a time for women to propose to men.
One theory is that the custom dates back to the 5th Century, when, legend has it, an Irish nun called St Bridget complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose. St Patrick then supposedly gave women the chance to ask the question every four years.
The tradition is not thought to have become commonplace until the 19th Century.
Then there’s the theory that Queen Margaret of Scotland was behind the fabled Scottish law of 1288. The law allowed unmarried women the freedom to propose during a leap year, and the man who refused was handed a fine.
The truth behind this tale is dubious at best – after all Queen Margaret was just eight years old when she died and scholars have been unable to find a record of the law.
Others argue that the tradition of women proposing on this day goes back to the times when the leap year day was not recognised by English law. Under this theory, if the day had no legal status, it was acceptable to break with the convention of a man proposing.
Women either have to wear breeches or a scarlet petticoat to pop the question, according to tradition.
In Denmark, if a man turns down a proposal they must give the woman 12 pairs of gloves and in Finland the penalty is fabric for a skirt.
According to research conducted by Beefeater, 20 per cent of women said they would like to propose to their partner. Despite the fact that almost a third of women said they would be worried about their partner’s reaction. However, more than half of men (59 per cent) would love their girlfriends to get down on one knee.
To that end, the chain has created a ‘Leap Year Proposal Package’ should you wish to pop the question at one of its establishments.
Research from The Stag Company yielded similar results, with more than half of men saying they would accept a propsal from their girlfriend, and the majority asserting that they would like to be given a ring by their partner.
Yet just 15 per cent of women said they would consider proposing.
Although there’s a theory that most unmarried men would love for their female partners to propose, recent research suggests Leap Year-inspired betrothals are doomed to failure.
Technically, a leap year isn’t every four years
The year 2000 was a leap year, but the years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not.
There’s a leap year every year that is divisible by four, except for years that are both divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400.
The added rule about centuries (versus just every four years) was an additional fix to make up for the fact that an extra day every four years is too much of a correction.