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 happen 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.
Our Sadie Hawkins rules were set, from the beginning, to be repeated. 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. The predictions were serious, like the price that the same cheap 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 actually 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. Something happened in the universe, in 2004, because 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 fine 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 actually November 15, and is an American folk event, based on Al Capp’s Li’l Abner comic strip. It was, apparently, 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 a number of 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 betrotherd. A woman, today, can propose any day she wants. I did...but that's another blog!
In From the Cookie Jar Blog, I will be sharing recipes, ideas, and memories gathered over decades. Sign Up Now!