x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Leap Year couple celebrate anniversary

One Dubai couple, who have been married for 12 years, celebrated their third anniversary yesterday - a day that only comes around every four years.

Because they married on February 29, yesterday was only their third wedding anniversary.
Because they married on February 29, yesterday was only their third wedding anniversary.

DUBAI // It is the uniquely romantic day when every four years a woman is allowed to bend on one knee and propose marriage to her beloved.

Yesterday was Leap Year Day, February 29. But what happens if, instead of proposing on that date, a couple choose it for their wedding?

Does romance suffer in the years that follow when they cannot mark the actual anniversary of their union every 12 months?

Not according to Jos Meijer, from the Netherlands, who wed his American bride Darcy on Leap Year Day in 2000.

Because they married on February 29, yesterday was only their third wedding anniversary, even though they have been man and wife for 12 years.

"You would think that because it's every four years it would be extra special - but every day with Darcy is very special," said Mr Meijer. "We can celebrate only every four years, but then we have quadruple the celebrations."

He said among the big advantages to having a February 29 anniversary was not having to exclude their sons Hanlon, 10, and Jan, 11, from celebrations on non-leap years.

"Every year, celebrating for us means Darcy and I going out for dinner," said Mr Meijer. "It's easier that our anniversary is on the 29th because we have to choose between going out on the 28th or March 1.

"It's not on the day itself, so it's not as if we abandon our children on the day of our celebration. It's very practical. I can recommend it."

February normally has 28 days, but every four years an extra day is added, which means the year lasts 366 days instead of the normal 365.

The additional day is necessary because the seasons and astronomical events do not follow a pattern of full days, so without leap years the calendar would gradually cease to coincide with the correct seasons and astronomical movements.

The tradition that women can propose only on Leap Year Day developed over the centuries in the British Isles, although variations exist in other countries.

Mr and Mrs Meijer, who have lived in Abu Dhabi for four years, were not even aware of the significance of the date when they said "I do".

He had been married before and was waiting for his divorce to be finalised.

"We didn't realise the day we chose was February 29," Mr Meijer said. "I wanted to get married again but had to wait for my divorce.

"We were together when the phone rang and my lawyer said that the divorce had come through, and Darcy said, 'Hey, we'll get married as soon as possible'. It was a Friday.

"And then she said, 'Oh, this coming Tuesday I'm not working'. So we organised it for the coming Tuesday, and then later we realised it was the 29th."

Mrs Meijer, 51, who teaches English in Zayed University's academic bridge programme, said: "I've had a very nice anniversary.

"I bought some chocolates for my students and all my co-workers, so I got to give candy to everyone and just talk about my anniversary, and everyone had a little story. It was nice.

"It's mostly a joking point with people. When you tell people it's a leap year they go, 'Oh yeah the 29th, of course!' So today people were joking, 'Does that mean you've been married three years, or is it 48 years?'"

Asked whether she would recommend getting married on February 29 to other couples, Mrs Meijer said: "I wouldn't really recommend that anybody get married at all."

But she admitted she was joking: "I like being married; I certainly do."

csimpson@thenational.ae