LEAP YEAR: Archdeacon of Norwich releases prayer for February 29th engagements

The 366-day year has been used for thousands of years and is credited to the leader of the Roman empire.

During his reign Julius Caesar discovered the Roman calendar – consisting of 364 days and an occasional leap month – was getting out of sync.

He consulted astronomers who told him a year was actually 365� days long due to the time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun – the precise time being 365 days, six hours, nine minutes and just under 10 seconds.

With this information he added an extra day to the end of February to ensure festivals and events would have continuity and in 45BC brought in a new calendar.

His date rules were followed until the 16th century when the method was refined with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, which set out that leap days could only be used in years divisible by four.

The formula gets more complicated, however, as years increase as February 29 does not occur in century years – such as 1700 or 1800 – unless they were divisible by 400, hence why 2000 was a leap year.

Since the introduction of February 29 there have been only a few hundred leap years, but it has allowed traditions and superstitions to arise around the unique date. One of the most well known being that today women can propose to men.

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The quirky rule is said to come from an Irish legend when St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men. If the lady was unlucky to get a 'no' the man was expected to pay a penalty such as a gown, or 12 pairs of gloves so the spurned woman could hide her ringless finger.

The tradition has been kept alive and for any women taking the plunge today, a prayer is on hand to help bless the engagement.

The verse, released today to mark the leap year, is from Pocket Prayers of Blessing by the Venerable Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich, and asks for God's blessing.

Ms McFarlane said: 'This is a popular time of year to propose, and holding a newly-engaged couple before God in prayer is just about the best possible start they could have to their future together.

'My hope is that this new pocket book will help us to bring God's blessing into every situation, and will help us to remember that through good times – and bad – God is always there beside us.'

The prayer reads (on hearing of an engagement):

'God of love, please bless x and x as they prepare for the commitment of marriage.

May the plans for the wedding not overtake the more important preparation for their lifetime together.

Please bless their family and friends as they prepare for this special day and may your blessing be upon them now and always. Amen.'

? Are you popping the question today, or doing something out of the ordinary to mark leap year? Call our news team on 01263 513453.

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