25 Feb
My Erroneous Leap Year Tradition


In 1980, in small-town Saskatchewan, I decided to celebrate February 29, as the gift it was, a once-in-four-years bonus day. At the time, I remembered a Sadie Hawkins dance I had attended while at university in the late 60s. For one night only, girls were encouraged to invite boys to the dance, collect them at their doors, and pin garlic corsages on them for the special occasion. As far as I could remember, this dance had happened on February 29, indicating that such a privilege could only occur every four years. I decided, in February of 1980, that our family, all girls, except for my husband, should invite my friend’s family, mostly boys, to a Sadie Hawkins dinner party.

We created our Sadie Hawkins rules so we could repeat them every four years. The boys received boutonnieres. We drank a bottle of inexpensive wine and wrote predictions on a second bottle of the same wine, to be opened four years later, at our next party. Making the prediction list was important to us. We estimated the price the wine might fetch, four years hence. We predicted the political party that would be in power the following leap year. We wrote a weather prediction for February 29, 1984. The party was fun, and, just as I predicted, we repeated it, again and again, every four years, for decades.

Over time, the children became more involved, and there were new predictions. The girls gave the boys T-shirts and hats, and we looked through scrapbooks depicting our past Sadie Hawkins parties. The girls always proposed a toast to the boys, and we laughed a lot. As our children grew into adults and moved away, we insisted they make predictions over the phone or by email. Rules began to change. When one grandson refused to wear his boutonniere and gave it to his sister, we knew we were enjoying an evolving tradition. 

This leap year, 2016, we will celebrate our tenth Sadie Hawkins. It turns out that our parties, although grounded in friendship and tradition, were based on an error I had made in assuming Sadie Hawkins had anything to do with February 29th. In 2004, both my friend and I came upon evidence of my error in the same week. Yes, Internet information made the details available, but there were also articles in the paper that year. I am not the only one who thought the two celebrations were one. I may, however, hold the record for keeping a mistake going for this long. I am at peace with my error. I think any celebration that gets friends together and makes people happy, even if started erroneously, is worth keeping alive.

For the record, Sadie Hawkin’s Day is November 15 and is an American folk event, based on Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip. It all started in 1937, and since readers loved watching Sadie trying to catch a husband in a footrace, it became an annual theme in the comic’s November storyline. 

This year, due to several unforeseen scheduling problems, we will celebrate our tenth Sadie Hawkins, later than usual. Maybe, this is my opportunity to set things right. I think we should celebrate Sadie Hawkins on November 15, 2016. It is still the leap year, after all. I feel a L'il Abner theme coming on!

In the meantime, Happy Bonus Day to all of you who are reading this. Happy February 29, 2016, to our Leap-Year-Sadie-Hawkins friends, Bob and Bev Gardner, of Rosetown. I have already started planning for November 15, 2016! If all of our children and grandchildren were to show up, we would have 17 for dinner. Each of them has helped the tradition evolve. If it turns out to be two grandmas inviting two grandpas, it will still be worth doing! I have learned the value of traditions and the importance of letting things evolve.

NOTE: I am aware that leap-year love-lore dates back to the middle ages. One article I read states that in Scotland, back in 1288, a man who declined a lady's offer of marriage, during a leap year, would be fined, unless he was already betrothed. A woman, today, can propose any day she wants. I did - but that's another blog!  


Comments (9)

  • Constance Muir
    March 2, 2020 at 03:22 pm

    Dear Maureen, Happy leap year to yourself and Gord. Any day or time spent with great friends and family is always a great time for a celebration weither you celebrate today tomorrow or every 4 year's there's always room for a great party. Cheers! Constance Muir

  • Marion Murawsky
    February 29, 2016 at 06:30 pm

    Hi Maureen, I remember our first Sadie Hawkins dance at U Of S in 1968 -- Orest came from Saskatoon. What fun. Lots of memories. Love, Marion

  • The Old Man at the Sea
    February 28, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Great blog and composition Maureen. Through inventiveness and perseverance you have helped us to hold on to a great Tradition. Traditions seem to start by chance but only actually become true through hard work and a love for history. I am wondering Gord if we really need a new time measurement, considering days weeks months years decades and now Packages century etc... On reflection, I am sure Package will become the new standard for historians. Maureen, thanks for the memories, and the Traditions.

  • Bev Gardner
    February 27, 2016 at 04:16 pm

    Hey, great photos of great memories! Thanks Maureen for keeping up the tradition against all odds! We will now plan for November

  • The Boy
    February 26, 2016 at 01:58 pm

    You never realize the amazing speed with which life passes you by, unless it is marked by traditions. Celebrating a tradition every four years, instead of once a year, makes you see life in 1461day packages, rather than 365 day parcels. It gets quite scary when you consider that a 40 year tradition contains 14,610 days, and they are, now, behind you. As I was doing the math...it suddenly hit me.......my good buddy Bob is getting REALLY OLD!!!!

  • gsyle senger
    February 26, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Well Maureen what can I say. You always know how to throw a great party and make EVERYONE happy. Glad to see nothing changes there. Great story but even better is how you can entertain!!

  • Patricia Coulter
    February 26, 2016 at 10:59 am

    What fun to relive these special days! Isn't it odd how women have to wait four years for one measly day to make their own wishes for betrothment come true?! Love seeing all the photos and the write-ups!

  • Mandy Ross
    February 26, 2016 at 09:44 am

    Absolutely fabulous Maureen! I didn't even realize it was a Leap Year! Haha

  • Sylvia Chave
    February 26, 2016 at 09:23 am

    What a lovely tradition. I love celebrations too and the name Sadie! It's my daughters name.

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