Leap Day, February 29 will soon be upon us and it's that time again to remind everyone about the age-old rules of Leap Day proposing.
Planning a marriage proposal is an anxious, yet exciting time for anyone thinking about popping the big question, and most will agree that the rules of courtship, namely the very act of proposing should be done in the proper way.
As a keen folklorist, I have made an in-depth study of Dorset traditions and celebrations for my recently published book, Dark Dorset Calendar Customs, of which Leap Day proposing is one custom featured.
Traditionally, Leap Day is the only one true day when a lady can propose marriage; but according to custom only if she is wearing a red petticoat.
Everyone knows that when a gentleman proposes marriage it is customary for him to go down on one knee, however, in a lady's case the customary and proper procedure is for her to lift up her dress and show her red petticoats.
Red being the colour of lifeblood and has strong symbolism to love, warmth, passion and fertility.
In Roman times brides wore a red veil called a 'flammeum' as a symbolic statement of their sincere love and that they were fertile and therefore ripe for the marriage bed.
No doubt the custom of showing one's red petticoat to propose on Leap Day is a remnant from such ancient marriage customs.
Few young ladies wear petticoats these days and it's therefore hardly surprising that this aspect of Leap Day proposing has been lost.
However, one suspects that a flash of red knickers would do just as well today, and what man could refuse that!
It is worth pointing out that if on Leap Day a gentleman declines the offer of marriage, he has to pay the forfeit to buy the lady a pair of gloves for Easter.
Source: Dorset Echo Saturday 16th February 2008