Today is the day that romance is in the air. Nope, it's not Valentine's Day! That was earlier this month. It's LEAP YEAR so there's an extra day in the month of February and that is today.
Now to us modern gals, that don't mean a whole lot but to Sadie Hawkins it was her lifeline to a husband. Folk lore has it that she was "the homeliest gal in the hills" and grew almighty tired of waiting for the fellows to come a courtin'. I can just imagine how she must've felt with gals like Daisy Mae in competition. Hekzebiah Hawkins, her father and a prominent resident of Dogpatch, didn't want to see his baby girl unhappy plus there was the fact that he sure didn't want her to be living at home forever. So in the 1930's he declared a Sadie Hawkin's Day. It involved a footrace in which the unmarried gals pursued the town's bachelors, with matrimony the consequence.
Back in my grandmother's younger days, leap year and spring fever joined forces. The two of them together took a lot of self-proclaimed bachelors right up to the altar to face the preacher. Leap year was more important than Christmas or Valentine's Day back then and it did not slip past the general public so easily as it does now.
It was the year of reckoning. The only day on the calendar when it was considered socially acceptable for a girl to propose to a boy. Any good old boy who'd been lackadaisical about proposing, or the ones who just flat out didn't have any intention of ever saying "I do", dreaded leap year. For months they practiced racing up hills, down hills, dodging gopher holes on flat land, and clothes lines in back yards so they could outrun any long-legged girl who set her sights on him. I really think that's how the Olympics got their start.
The girls, whether skinny or slightly on the plus side, loved it. It was the big day that they'd worked toward for four long years. They'd worked out faithfully until they could run the mile in two minutes, jump hurdles in long skirts, corsets and some even in wedding dresses, without breaking a sweat. Their guerilla training included ambushing a mean grizzly bear and leading him to the altar before he even knew he was captured. I'm wondering if that's where the new wave of Boot Camp came from.
Preachers loved February 29. They made more money that day marrying folks than they could collect all week during a tent revival in July during a heat wave.
If those men had been truly wise, they would have run five steps, pretended to fall and gotten caught right there at the beginning. Then they wouldn't have had to worry about remembering to buy an anniversary present but once every four years.
In reality, it is claimed that leap year actually started in 1288 by Queen Margaret of Scotland, who required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man; compensation ranged from a kiss to money to a silk gown, in order to soften the blow. (Now that, ladies, is a sure fire way to spruce up the spring wardrobe.)
In Denmark, the tradition is that women may propose on the bissextile leap day, Feb. 24, and that refusal must be compensated with 12 pairs of gloves. (I'm wondering if those can be gardening gloves?)
In Finland, if a man refuses, he must buy the woman the fabric for a skirt. (I bet the men over there were real happy to see mini-skirts take over the world!)
In Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky. (Wonder if that is grounds for divorce?)
I don't know that Sadie ever caught a husband and Hekzebiah might still be listenin' to her whine about not having one. But by the late 30's the event had swept the nation and had a life of its own. Life magazine reported over 200 colleges holding Sadie Hawkins Day events in 1939. It became a woman empowering rite at high schools and college campuses, long before the modern feminist movement gained prominence.
So whether we write contemporary, historical, paranormal, romantic suspense, regency or any other romance genre, we owe some of our heroines' sassy spunk to the women who went before us...those who took matters into their own hands and took care of business.
Anyone out there have a Feb. 29 anniversary? Did you have to chase down your husband? I've got an ARC of One Hot Cowboy Wedding (release date, April 3) to give away today to one lucky person who leaves a comment... USA and Canada only, please. Will draw a name out of the Stetson this evening and post it tomorrow morning.