According to Wikipedia—a fount of knowledge on all things Leap Day/Sadie Hawkins—the practice of woman asking men to MARRY them was allowed once every four years on Leap Day. Though often attested to Birgid’s major crush on St. Patrick (and really, who wouldn’t be beguiled with the man who drove the snakes out of Ireland?), the Leap Day major proposals appear to have started in the 19th Century, not in the 5th Century with Birgid and Patrick.
Leap Day marriage proposals by women have been allowed across cultures—and if a man refuses a lovely bachelorette, he was required to buy her a gift to soften the blow. “In Denmark, the tradition is that women may propose on the bissextile leap year day, February 24, and that refusal must be compensated with 12 pairs of gloves. In Finland, the tradition is that if a man refuses a woman’s proposal on leap year day, he should buy her the fabrics for a skirt,” says Wikipedia.
So, just who is Sadie Hawkins and how does she figure into all this? It all started back in the 1930’s with a hillbilly comic strip called “Li’l Abner.” The town’s most eligible spinster, Sadie Hawkins, couldn’t find a suitor so her father created an event in which Sadie could “catch” a husband. No, seriously, she’d catch him.
“When ah fires [my gun], all o’ yo’ kin start a-runnin! When ah fires agin—after givin’ yo’ a fair start—Sadie starts a runnin’. Th’ one she ketches’ll be her husbin.” The town spinsters decided that this was such a good idea, they made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of Dogpatch bachelors. In the satirical spirit that drove the strip, many sequences revolved around the dreaded Sadie Hawkins Day race. If a woman caught a bachelor and dragged him, kicking and screaming, across the finish line before sundown—by law he had to marry her!
This inspired the real world “Sadie Hawkins Dance,” where girls ask guys to be their dates to a wonderful dance. No doubt these are women who are still reeling from Valentine’s Day singleness, which makes the placement of the day—exactly two weeks and one day after the lover’s holiday—so sweet.
The Sadie Hawkins’ Dance also inspired the hilarious song “Sadie Hawkins Dance” by Relient K. There are several fan-made music videos for the song, but this one is my favorite (I like the Rock Band instruments)…
So happy Sadie Hawkins Day, everyone! If you don’t have a date to the Sadie Hawkins Dance, you could always take advantage of 29% off sales at the retailer of your choice (as if a sale that pitiful inspires would-be bargain hunters.)