If you haven’t looked at a calendar today, we have some news for you: It’s not March. No, it’s February 29, the calendar anomaly better known as Leap Day. How should you celebrate this once-in-four-years occasion? Well, if you’re a woman, you should mark the holiday by asking someone you have your eye on out for a date. Why? Because Leap Day is also considered to be Sadie Hawkins Day.
High schoolers may recognize the phenomenon from the dance of the same name, where teenage girls buck up the courage to ask their dream guy to dance at arm’s length under a chaperone’s watchful eye. To celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day, the stakes are a bit higher, which is undoubtedly why it only comes around once every four years. On Leap Day, ladies are supposed to propose marriage to their dearest beloved. The tradition originated long ago in Ireland, which explains its anachronistic attitude where women are meant to wait patiently for men to ask them on a date, or for his hand in marriage. However the Leap Day custom is kept alive by pop culture, most recently in the Amy Adams romantic comedy aptly named Leap Year.
As for the tradition in the United States, the Leap Day phenomenon has been in the U.S. since at least the early 20th century. Slate has a slideshow of daffy vintage postcards dedicated to warning men about the hazards of accepting female visitors on Leap Day. Picture women with nets chasing after fleeing men and very dour dogs shaking their heads at the sight.
As for Sadie Hawkins, she hit the U.S. pop cultural shores back in 1937, when Sadie Hawkins Day was introduced in pen and ink in Al Capp’s classic comic strip Li’l Abner. In the comic, Sadie Hawkins was a spinster at the age of 35, so her father set up a race for local bachelors. Whoever Sadie caught was going to be her husband. The town, and the reading audience, loved the idea and the race became an annual fixture of the comic strip, and soon spread into real-life society, spawning Sadie Hawkins Day dances.
So today’s your day, ladies. Unless, of course, this whole antiquated gender bending idea just makes you want to go home and kiss the bottle, instead of any boy or girl. If that’s the case, The Hairpin has an excellent recipe for a Sadie Hawkins Sling.