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Feeling lucky or unlucky? Here are some Leap Day superstitions around the world

By Yoniel Acebuche Published Feb 28, 2024 5:24 pm

The calendar year typically has 365 days, but every four years, we add an extra day to the calendar, which we call "leap year."

Citing Mario Raymundo, an astronomer of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the Philippine News Agency (PNA) said that leap year happens "to synchronize the calendar with the astronomical year."

"The complete rotation of Earth around the sun takes about 365.25 days. That means there is an extra .25 or one-fourth of a day every year. That would accumulate every four years, and thus we add one day," Raymundo said.

This unique day brings interesting customs and superstitions, from marriage proposals to specific culinary traditions. Proven or not, as we fondly say, "Wala namang mawawala kung maniniwala ka." Here are many interesting things to look out for on Feb. 29. 

Weddings on Feb. 29 are considered unlucky

Although February is widely known as love month, getting married on a leap day is unlucky. According to Greeks, most marriages celebrating their anniversary on Feb. 29 will lead to divorce, while Italians believe that it is unlucky because leap year is reportedly when women are erratic or unpredictable.

Furthermore, a Greek belief holds that a couple is destined to never be happy again if they split during a leap year.

Women can pop the marital question on leap day

While weddings are considered unlucky during the leap day, people—especially women—can still shoot their shot on this day. 

Rooted from the legend of St. Brigid and St. Patrick in response to concerns from single women about the long wait for marriage proposals, women are traditionally allowed to propose to men during leap day. Because of this, Feb. 29 also serves as Bachelors' Day, a fun-filled tradition worldwide where women propose to men.

Leap years—unlucky for some?

In Scotland, some believe that being born on Leap Day brings immense hardship, similar to the old saying "a leap year was never a good sheep year," which suggests concerns about livestock during leap years.

However, others view it as a unique blessing, citing the rare chance of being born on this day (1 in 1,461, according to natal astrology websites). Additionally, Leap Day falls under the Pisces astrological sign, often associated with creativity and charm.

Some famous characters, personalities, and celebrities born on Feb. 29 are Filipino linguist and De La Salle Brother Andrew Gonzalez, former national defense secretary Teofilo Sison, and theater director Freddie Santos, among others.

Ernest Wang, a host on the state-run radio program Wow China, explained in a PNA report that the Chinese believe individuals born on February 29th are special due to the date's rarity.

"We believe they have some special talent, or their lives will be more special, luckier or worse than (those who have normal birthdays)," he told the media outlet.

Eating pig trotter soup will cast away bad luck

In Taiwan, a tradition suggests that elderly people may experience bad luck during leap years. To counter this belief, married daughters visit their parents on leap day and prepare a dish of pig trotter soup, believed to bring good fortune and longevity to the household.

Pig Trotter Soup

In case you didn't know, pig trotter or pig feet soup is a traditional Chinese cuisine where trotters are carefully boiled first and cooked until very tender in a pressure cooker. Then, it was braised with aromatics and sauces to achieve a savory flavor.

This soup is served throughout the month, especially on Feb. 29, as they believe consuming pig's feet symbolizes changing one's luck.

'More of a calendar thing' for Chinese

Andrew Chia, a Beijing resident, explained in a PNA interview that leap years hold mainly a calendrical significance for most Chinese, lacking widespread customs or beliefs. However, he noted that some Southern Chinese regions observe traditions like women gathering for meals in the Wuyi Mountains, children gifting shoes to parents for longevity, and married women returning to their parents' homes for dinner.