Leap year in Czechia brings bad omens, good signs, and an extra work day

Read about some of the gender-bending, haircutting superstitions associated with Feb. 29 – should you watch your luck all year?

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 29.02.2024 14:40:00 (updated on 29.02.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

The rarest day of the Georgian calendar year is upon us – with it, some superstitions that last even today. But how significant is Feb. 29 in Czechia, and should you watch your luck today (and for the rest of the year)?

Get married...but don't cut your hair!

If you’re engaged, Czech tradition says that Feb. 29 is “the optimal wedding date” to bring good fortune if it falls on a weekend. Couples waiting to wed and looking for the most luck-filled and “ideal” wedding must wait till 2032 (when Feb. 29 falls on a Sunday).

Czech legend also tells pregnant women to be careful: they should not cut their hair in a leap year if they want to give birth to a healthy child.

Tradition also says not to collect anything from the ground during leap years so as not to bring hostile forces home – this is why, historically, people viewed mushroom picking with skepticism in previous leap years (and some may still do today).

Beware of bad weather! Many in the past also believed that leap years tend to bring with them poor weather and weak harvests.

FAST FACTS ABOUT FEB. 29 IN CZECHIA

  • An average of about 275 children are born every Feb. 29 in Czechia
  • Today's name day is Horymír(a) – there are about 160 male versions of the name currently in Czechia, and one female
  • Interestingly, the average number of weddings on Feb. 29 (220) in the last 30 years exceeds the average daily amount in any calendar year (150)

A changing of gender roles

In some Czech regions 100 years ago, it was a fairly widespread custom for women to go caroling at Easter on a leap year, reversing the traditional gender roles. Some smaller areas, such as the town of Dačice in South Bohemia, continue this tradition today.

In different countries, Feb. 29 holds a variety of different meanings. In Irish (and some British) tradition, women may propose to their partners on Leap Day (or, in some regions, at any point during a Leap Year).

In the past, if the man refused, he would need to buy the rejected woman a pair of gloves, a silk gown, or a fur coat. A number of others European countries also follow this tradition, some of which may have also made its way to Czechia.

The Leap Year came about after early civilizations noticed that the solar year is about 365.25 days long. Julius Caesar, a Roman leader, added an extra day every four years to keep the calendar aligned with the Earth's orbit. Later, Pope Gregory XIII refined the system in the 16th century, creating the Gregorian calendar that we use today. 

Unlike in Czechia, Greek tradition sees Feb. 29 as being so unlucky that couples are discouraged from marrying on the date.

Some good omens for the economy?

On a more practical level, having an extra day this year may bring some added prosperity to the Czech economy. Deloitte Chief Economist David Marek told Seznam Zprávy that one extra working day generates an extra CZK 4.2 billion (or 0.08 percent of GDP). However, in the long run, the true impact this will bring is negligible: the Czech Statistical Office adjusts data accordingly for any added (or “missing”) working days every month.

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