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Do you know a woman who should propose this Leap Year? Tourism Northern Ireland wants to help...

Published 29/01/2016

Miss Ireland Sacha Livingstone has used one of Northern Ireland's most iconic estates, the stunning Mount Stewart and its gardens, as inspiration for her 'proposal' to model James McDowell.
Miss Ireland Sacha Livingstone has used one of Northern Ireland's most iconic estates, the stunning Mount Stewart and its gardens, as inspiration for her 'proposal' to model James McDowell.

2016 is a Leap Year and on Leap Day, February 29, tradition dictates that women can get down on bended knee and propose marriage to their partners.

To celebrate this tradition, Tourism Northern Ireland is launching a loved-up competition to find the country’s most romantic proposal idea and help make it happen for one lucky lady and her unsuspecting partner. 

The only stipulation is that the idea must be inspired by Northern Ireland including its wonderful countryside and landscapes, tourist attractions, history and people.

A proposal of marriage should be unforgettable, explained Rachel Quigg, Communications and Destination PR Officer, Tourism NI: “We want to help one lucky lady plan a surprise proposal at one of Northern Ireland’s great beauty spots, like Mussenden Temple, or tourist attractions, like the Giant’s Causeway, that her partner will never forget.

"We will help to arrange everything including a few romantic surprises,” said Rachel.

The tradition of women asking their other halfs for their hand in marriage is said to date back to the time of St Brigid and St Patrick when legend has it that she struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men every four years as a way of balancing the traditional roles of men and women, in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.

Rachel continued: “In order to win, the proposal idea must use Northern Ireland and its breathtaking scenery, award winning tourist attractions, hotels and restaurants, as the main inspiration.”

To enter, email your proposal idea to Tourism Northern Ireland in strictest confidence to marryme@duffyrafferty.com telling them in 200 words or less why your proposal, inspired by Northern Ireland, should be the winner. 

Northern Ireland has so much to offer that the proposal ideas could be endless, but Rachel has a few suggestions.

She said:  “If your other half is a fan of our magnificent mountain ranges then maybe you can surprise them with a romantic dinner for two with a private butler, accompanied by a violinist, on top of Divis Mountain with staggering views over Belfast as your backdrop or the Sperrins in County Tyrone?

“Or what about a trip to one of Northern Ireland’s top attractions or beauty spots, like a cosy candle-lit boat trip for two on the Fermanagh lakes serenaded by a beautiful choir or how about getting down on one knee during a special tour of Mount Stewart with all your family there to meet you at the end? 

“Is your other half a fan of Game of Thrones? If so, perhaps a surprise proposal at one of the famous filming locations such as the Dark Hedges, Ballintoy Harbour, Cushendun Caves or Castle Ward.

“Or why not head to Tannaghmore in Craigavon, home to the Kissing Gate.  Legend says when couples kiss over the gate they get married within a year, this could be followed by a delicious five-course dinner cooked by a celebrity chef at an exclusive location,” concluded Rachel.

Closing date for entries is February 10. The winners will be required to take part in some publicity. 

The Leap Year legend

Legend says that St Brigid struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men every four years as a way of balancing the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.

According to an old Irish legend, or possibly history, St Brigid struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every four years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.

In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman's proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.

People born on February 29 are all invited to join The Honour society of Leap Year Day Babies.  According to the Guinness Book of Records, there are Leap Day World Record Holders both of a family producing three consecutive generations born on February 29 and of the number of children born on February 29 in the same family.

Leap Day is also St Oswald’s Day, named after an archbishop of York who died on February 29, 992. The memorial is celebrated on February 29 during Leap Years and on February 28 during common years.

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