February 29th: Time for women to propose
At least in countries as diverse as Finland, Scotland and Ireland that is the accepted tradition. In these countries it is the one time for those women who have been waiting for him to pop the question to force his hand by popping it first.
In Greece however it is bad luck to get married in a leap year. This leap year it is probably bad luck for many Greeks whether they get married or not!
In countries where women are to propose on this day the men usually suffer some fine if they turn down the proposal. Often the fine is enough to purchase a dress.
In Scotland Queen Margaret supposedly passed a law in 1288 that permitted women to propose on the 29th. The woman however had to wear a red petticoat under her skirt to warn her suitor what was to happen. Many scholars dispute this story as well as Irish traditional stories about the custom.
Supposedly an Irish fifth century nun asked St. Patrick for permission to allow women to propose on the 29th of February. The story goes that the nun St. Brigid then proposed to St. Patrick. This seems a bit contradictory to Roman Catholic rules about marriage to put it mildly! For more see this article. Some feminists have found the tradition demeaning to women but others have pointed out in historical context it actually gave women more power and enabled them to break with tradition.