The Great Leap Forward?

Salmon leaping

Every four years, 29 February comes around and every year we all say ‘let’s do something special with this bonus day’. Why not make this year the day you actually do something, whether it’s proposing marriage (for the ladies only) or just doing something outside your usual routine. But first, why not check out the Westminster Libraries website for a bit of inspiration.

First a little bit of history. And where better to find it than the History section of the Westminster Libraries Gateway. In the History Tools section, there’s a very useful website called which has an article explaining the reasons for Leap Year Day:

“Leap Years are needed to keep our calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. It takes the Earth approximately 365.242199 days (a tropical year) to circle once around the Sun. If we didn’t add a day on February 29 nearly every 4 years, we would lose almost six hours every year. After only 100 years, our calendar would be off by approximately 24 days!”

The ancient Roman Calendar added an extra month every few years to maintain the correct seasonal changes.

But Julius Caesar implemented a new calendar – the Julian Calendar – in 45 BCE (Before Common Era) with an extra day added every 4 years. At the time, Leap Day was February 24, because February was the last month of the year.”

And some rather more entertaining information about the history of Leap Day traditions:

“According to an old Irish legend, or possibly history, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every 4 years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.

In some places, Leap Day has been known as “Bachelors’ Day” for the same reason. A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day. In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.”

Editing this post to add, we’ve been informed the Time and Date website isn’t accessible for our readers with a visual impairment, whereas The Time Now website is.

Obviously, once you’ve bagged your chap, you’ll be wanting to plan a wedding. Westminster Libraries can help you here too. There are plenty of books on the catalogue to help you with your big day, and there’s loads of information provided by the Registrars Service too. If you’ve been turned down, Westminster Reference Library has a  large collection of fashion magazines and books to help you choose your 12 pairs of free gloves.

If marriage (or free gloves!) isn’t for you, how about making this day special by doing something new? Take up a new sport perhaps? If you check out the Sport & Recreation section of the Gateway, you’ll find plenty of sites to inspire you, including the very useful Westminster Community Information Database which has details of more than a hundred local sports clubs and venues. If your tastes are less athletic, the Traditional Games section may encourage you to have a go at a game you’ve not tried before, whether it’s quoits, shove ha’penny or something more exotic – perhaps Toad in the Hole or Aunt Sally.

Not everyone can be the sporty type – why not take advantage of this extra day to visit one of those London sites you’ve always meant to go to but have never got around to? The London section of the  Gateway is your friend here. Assuming you’ve ticked off all the major galleries, from the British Museum to the Wallace Collection, use the Time Out site’s useful search feature to find an event near you. The  nearest activity to me involves some ‘influential post-rockers’ The Winchester Club playing tracks from their second album ‘Negative Liberty’ which would certainly be a new activity if I hadn’t already committed to diving into the icy waters of Tooting Bec Lido as my leap of the day.

Great Leap Forward in Tooting Lido

Whatever it is you decide to do, why not come back and report it here?



One response to “The Great Leap Forward?

  1. In case anyone is wondering, I did jump in a very cold swimming pool though my attempts to find a husband only scored one glove out of the lost property box. My friend Alex was there to capture the moment


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