I am always interested in food customs surrounding holidays of all kinds. Leap Year is not technically a holiday but frankly anything that only happens every four years must have some honorary ‘cousin of a holiday’ status at a minimum.
The origins of Leap Year date back to ancient Egypt when it was discovered the solar and man made calendars did not line up. The Romans instituted February 29 as a leap day, though that was fine tuned in the 16th century with the Gregorian calendar to be more formulaic establishing it every 4 years.
My first point of interest is always what the food customs are of a holiday. In all my research I found there are definitely some social customs but really no coordinated food for Leap Year. In the British Isles it is like a matrimonial Sadie Hawkins day where woman are ‘allowed’ to ask men to marry them. In Scotland Queen Margaret instituted a fine for any man declining such a proposal by a woman of a kiss, pair of gloves or a silk dress (I also read there may have been a large ‘punishment’). I read something bleak about how it was a coveted day for women concerned they’d be ‘left on the shelf’; ug. Supposedly in Greece it is seen to be bad luck to have a wedding in a Leap Year and in Scotland bad luck for a child to be born on February 29.
The reason it is called Leap Year has to do historically with English law not recognizing it as a legal day for business and therefore it is ‘leapt over’ with business transactions to occur on February 28 or March 1.
Despite not uncovering any food customs, I did find a Leap Year cocktail. It originates back to Harry Craddock who was the bartender at the famous Savoy Hotel in London and he is said to have developed this cocktail for a Leap Year celebration in 1928.
LEAP YEAR cocktail
One should approach this cocktail slowly like a large, stealthy wild cat stalking the only prey it’s seen for weeks. Pounce too quickly and you’ll be sorry. Think of this as a brightly flavored martini, not to be taken lightly; lest you be knocked out until the Leap Year! It’s very tasty….and forte!
Yield: 1 cocktail
· 2 ounces gin*
· ½ ounce Grand Marnier
· ½ ounce Sweet Vermouth
· ¼ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
· Garnish: Lemon spiral (click here for instructions)
*I suppose to be in fashion with this cocktail’s origins using a British gin brand would be fitting but I’m a locavore so I used my gin of choice Rob’s Mountain Gin (Growing Gardens limited edition batch).
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake, and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.