Valentines and Leap Year

Every fourth year, an extra day in the calendar resynchronizes earthly time with cosmic time. This year, on February 29, a day is added to our calendar, creating Leap Year. In a curious, centuries-old custom, ladies are traditionally given the opportunity to boldly, and legally, propose marriage -- throughout the year. Considering the restrictions on women's freedoms for so long, the privilege to declare their love was quite astonishing.

It became a merry excuse for parties, games, and the extensive Leap Year memorabilia, which includes lace or comic valentines, popular "Sadie Hawkins" dance programs, and the wide range of postcards from the early 1900's.

Although it lasts all the year, I have had great fun searching specifically for Leap Year Valentines. Occasionally collectors will find early cards - I have only one on lace paper - but most appeared about the turn of the century, and were anything but elegant. You will find lots of postcards from 1900, 1904, 1908, and 1912 - but production ceased because of World War I. They are frequently suggestive, and often depict an aggressive femme fatale - with cartoon drawings, and lots of laughs. But there were other styles, including colorful shape cards, game booklets, and even wonderful newspaper illustrations for the avid collector. Once you start looking, you'll be amazed. Naturally, eBay is a good resource, and going down the list of oddities the holiday seems to generate is an education in itself! Many people may recall the old Sadie Hawkins dances, which popularized the year-long event. I have seen references to Leap Year in a number of handmade Valentines and amazingly, early invitations and printed programs for Valentine Leap Year Balls, verifying the celebration of the custom as early as the 1840s.

The Nancy Rosin Collection contains a wide assortment of Leap Year Valentines! There are funny, sentimental, and even little calling cards, which would be presented to a beau whom you desired to walk you home! Take advantage of this unique opportunity!

I am also selling reproductions of Leap Year cards, made with fine Italian paper and German silver glitter! Click here to view the new cards.

Click on the images below to display them at a larger size in a separate window. High resolution versions are available upon request for commercial use.

"Valentine Ball"
Invitation to a Leap Year Ball on Feb. 13, 1856 in West Ashford, Connecticut.
"Leap Year - or Love in Plenty"
Published 24 March 1800 by Laurie & Whittle, 53 Fleet Street, London.

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Valentine History and Gifts at Victorian Treasury