Putting a Leap Year Day ring on it

You’ll be lucky, you’ll be cursed.

Your crops will wilt, your sheep will nod off — permanently.

And your local whale pod may be awash in birth days.

Such are just a few global cultural beliefs when it comes to Leap Year, that every-four-year occurrence when an extra day dangles at the end of February.

The calendar phenomenon occurs today, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.

The extra day is added to the calendar every four years as a corrective measure because the Earth doesn’t orbit the sun in precisely 365 days but more like 365.25 days, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Without the extra day, the calendar and the seasons would gradually get out of sync.

South Whidbey resident Ashley Lynch decided this is the year to seal the deal with her longtime boyfriend, Patrick Harris.

Saturday, she plans to partake in one of the better-known Leap Year Day traditions —popping the big “be mine” line.

“I thought about it when I looked at the 2020 calendar last year,” Lynch said. “Then, I looked up the origin of Leap Year and saw it had a tie to Saint Patrick and that’s when I decided.”

After some four years of dating, the Freeland couple were thinking marriage but hadn’t quite gotten around to a few details.

Like a date. A venue.

A formal proposal.

After a recent frenzied few weeks of searching and shopping, they now have a wedding day date, location and plan, complete with all the maddening minutiae of modern matrimony — dress, flowers, food, cake, table settings, music, photographer, invitations, even impossible-to-please bridesmaids.

And a ring.

It hangs on a necklace around Lynch’s neck.

“I didn’t put it on her finger, nor did I ask,” Harris pointed out. “All I did was buy her a ring and say, ‘Here you go, babe. Love you.’”

Harris not only has the right name for the Leap Day tradition, he sounds rather saintly, at least according to his smitten presumed bride-to-be.

“He’s really kind and caring and he will do whatever he can to help you,” Lynch said.

Although Harris is in on the not-so-secret Leap Day plans, the day will still have an element of surprise.

“I know she’s going to propose Saturday,” he said, “but I don’t know where or how.”

Known as Bachelor’s Day in Ireland, the Leap Day tradition “allows” women to take the lead and get down on bended knee to pop the until-death-do-us-part proposal.

While women these days are free to wed — and propose marriage — to the gender of their choice, that was not so in centuries past on the Emerald Isle.

The story goes that a certain Irish female saint complained to a fellow saint that women had to wait far too long for a man to propose. Legend has it that Saint Brigid (or Bridget) suggested to Saint Patrick that roles be reversed for marriage proposals for one day of the year every four years. And so it was decreed.

Another tall tale has it that Saint Brigid considered Saint Patrick a bit thick when it came to Cupid’s clues so she dropped to her knees and popped the question the moment the Leap Day decree rang out. (He declined, maybe because she wore a nun’s habit.)

Another version involves Queen Margaret of Scotland, who supposedly enacted a law in 1288 that allowed women to propose to men during the Leap Year.

Depending on which Leap Day folklore you explore, if such a proposal is refused, the man is expected to buy the dejected woman a silk gown, a fur coat, 12 pairs of silk gloves — one for every month to hide the ringless finger— or expect a hefty fine.

Harris hinted that he’s inclined to go along with the quirky romantic proposition. Not just because the couple is already knee-deep in details and deposits for their planned Aug. 29 nuptials.

But because of another kind of wedding-day jitters.

“I don’t want to be fined,” Harris said with a laugh and glance at his future fiancée. “Or to have to buy her satin gloves or whatever.

“Listen, Ashley’s best quality is she has a huge heart,” he added. “That’s a heart I want to be around for a long time.”

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