European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)Image courtesy of WikipediaA pinch and a punch for the first of the month and no returns of any kind.’‘A pinch and a kick for being so quick and no returns of any kind.’ . . . and so on and so forth. I am glad to have those irritating dialogues
a long way behind me. I never appreciated the fun in being pinched, punched and kicked black and blue just because of the date.
Another thing one is
supposed recommended to say on the first day of each month is ‘White rabbits.’ Why? Not only are you expected to remember to utter this phrase but these two words must be the first words you speak when you wake. It’s meant to bring good fortune for the rest of the month. Add to this the expectation that the last words you voice on the last day of the month must be ‘Grey hares.'European hare, Brown hare (Lepus europaeus)Image courtesy of WikipediaI pondered all this in the early hours of the morning as I massaged Tia to help her relax and go back to sleep so that I could return to the arms of whoever it is that’s the god of slumber – Morpheus, that’s him. I couldn’t sleep in his arms – he’s always portrayed as butt-naked. Ooh, all that sticky flesh.Morpheus, Phantasos and Iris by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, 1811
Image courtesy of WikipediaNaturally, I had
neglected forgotten to say the magic words last night and my morning started early. Tia was quite concerned enough without me chanting at her because, of course, when I do remember to say ‘White rabbits’ I have to repeat it three times – three is a lucky number, you see. However, if I repeat it three times does that really mean that I’ve actually said it four times, since it’s not possible to repeat something unless you’ve already said it, unless you count previous occasions? But if you consider previous occasions you might, in the course of a year, supposing you’ve faithfully remembered, say ‘White rabbits’ at least 36 times (or 48 if my theory of repetition is correct.)
Anyway, to return to my question, ‘Why?’ When I googled the saying I discovered that I’ve been doing it wrong all my life (along with lots of other things, no doubt.)Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge – well, some of it, but you have to be careful what you believe – says, ‘"Rabbit rabbit" is a common British superstition. The most common modern version states that a person should say "rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit", "rabbit, rabbit, rabbit", "rabbit, rabbit" or simply "white rabbits" upon waking on the first day of each new month, and on doing so will receive good luck for the duration of that month.’
Rabbits are considered to be lucky animals – though not for farmers - and some people still believe that they will have good luck if they carry a rabbit’s foot, which is not so fortunate for the rabbit, of course. I wonder why rabbits have achieved this status, since hares are Britain’s native long-eared, long-legged furry creatures, rabbits having been introduced to this country by the invading Romans. An archaeological dig in Norfolk uncovered the remains of a 2,000-year-old rabbit. The butchered bones were found amongst pottery fragments of cooking pots. It is believed that the Roman legions brought rabbits from Spain which were raised in walled enclosures and used for food.
More information on the superstitions surrounding rabbits has been copied from Wikipedia and reproduced below.
As with most folklore, which is traditionally spread by word of mouth, there are numerous variant versions of the "rabbit, rabbit" superstition, in some cases specific to a certain time period or region. There are hundreds of variants, some of the most common of which include:
- When the words, "Rabbit, Rabbit" are spoken to any person on the first of the month, for the rest of the month the speaker receives the luck of all who heard the phrase.
- "In some parts of Lancashire and the adjacent counties, it is considered unlucky by some to shoot a black rabbit. This is because they were once believed to be ancestral spirits returning in that form. InSomerset, white rabbits are said to be witches. That anyone really believes this now is improbable; nevertheless, white rabbits are not popular as children's pets, and they are sometimes left alone and not shot. A luck-bringing custom found all over Great Britain is to say 'Rabbits' or 'White Rabbits' once or three times on the first day of the month. It must be said early in the morning, before any other word has been uttered, otherwise the charm loses its force. In some districts it is considered necessary to say 'Hares' or 'Black Rabbits' when going to bed on the night before, as well as 'Rabbits' or 'White Rabbits' in the morning. If, however, the speaker becomes muddled and says 'Black Rabbits' on rising, bad luck will follow. The looked-for result of all this is variously given as general good luck during the ensuing four weeks, or the receipt of a gift within a few days."
- It is believed that saying "Rabbit Rabbit" on the first day of the New Year will bring yearlong good luck.
- The converse: instead of believing that saying it will bring good luck, believing that not saying it will bring bad luck.
- Being the first to say "rabbit rabbit" to a person on the first of the month will bring good luck.
- Instead of saying "rabbit, rabbit", saying just "rabbit", or "rabbits". Some also extend it to three rabbits: "rabbit, rabbit, rabbit", which has some of the earliest written references.
- The earliest referenced usage may be to saying "rabbits" three times before going to sleep the last night of the month, and then "hares" three times first thing upon waking, though just two years later, it was three "rabbits" in the morning with no "hares" at all.
- Alan Zweibel used a variation as the title of his book, Bunny, Bunny, which recounted his friendship with Gilda Radner.
- Using the night of the new moon (traditionally the first day of the lunar month) instead of the first night of the month.
- Another variation is "bunny bunny hop hop".
- Saying "black rabbits" the night before, and "white rabbits" on the morning in question.
- Believing that the effect is stronger on one's month of birth.
- Referring to the first day of each month as "Rabbit Day".
- Various ways to counteract forgetting to say it, most commonly saying it backwards ("tibbar, tibbar") before falling asleep or saying "Moose Moose" upon waking on the second day of the month.
- A different but related practice of saying "Happy White Rabbit's Day" to someone in order to bring good luck.
- Making "rabbit, rabbit" be the last words said on the last of the month and the first words said on the first of the month.
- One variation involves an element of competition: Saying "rabbit, rabbit" to another person on the first of the month entitles the speaker to the luck of the listener for the duration of the month.
- Another variation is that the first person to say "rabbit, rabbit" on the last day of the month and "tibbar, tibbar" on the first day of the month wins bragging rights for the duration of the month.
- Traditions also extend to saying on the first of each month: "A pinch and a punch for the first day of the month; white rabbit!" White rabbit is declared to be the "no returns" policy on the "pinch and the punch" the receiver felt. A small concession exists, for recipients of the "pinch and a punch", where white rabbit declaration (no returns) is not made. Recipients may in this case reply with "A flick and a kick for being so quick." In some areas, it is simply, "Pinch, punch, first the month, no returns back!" Additionally, there is a way to defeat the white rabbit/no returns declaration. This is by introducing magic mirror glue. The following is an example of such a play, Person 1 "Hey X, a pinch and a punch for the first day of the month; white rabbit!" Person 2 "Not Happening Y, I declare Magic Mirror Glue, today's punches and kicks bounce off me and stick to you!" Person 2 is then free to pinch/punch/kick said instigator.
- Saying "White rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits".
- A more modern variation is to say "rabbit, rabbit" to someone on the first day of the month, and whoever says it first wins. The idea of luck is not involved.
- Some couples have a tradition that the first to say rabbit rabbit on day entitles the sayer to a gift.
- Saying "white rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit" as the first words of the month, before getting out of bed—and the speaker must first reverse position, so that speaker's head is at the foot of the bed and vice versa.
- Harold Nicolson, (1886–1968) politician and diplomat, often said "Rabbits" not only on the first of the month, but as a general talisman in his long-running diary, held at Balliol College, Oxford.
- Around 1920 the following belief is common in many parts of Great Britain, with local variants: To secure good luck of some kind, usually a present, one should say "Rabbits" three times just before going to sleep on the last day of the month, and then "Hares" three times on waking the next morning.
- The band Jawbreaker makes reference to the superstition in their song Jinx Removing.
- Another variation brought about by the Polish is the phrase "Bunny, Bunny".
- Chick McGee from The Bob and Tom Show says "rabbit, rabbit, rabbit", on the air, at the beginning of each month for good luck.
- In the early 1990s, Nickelodeon had a segment called "Nick days", which had an event for every day of the year. The first of every month was "Rabbit Rabbit Day". According to the segment, the phrase "rabbit rabbit" must be the first thing said after waking on the first day of the month.
- In some areas of the Southern United States, such as Tennessee and Mississippi, campers will say "I hate white rabbits" in response to campfire smoke blowing into their face, hoping the smoke will go elsewhere.
- In Ireland, children traditionally say "coinín bán" (Irish for "white rabbit") the first time they meet someone on the 1st day of any month.
- The podcast, Smart Mouths, has caused a phenomenon where listeners say and tweet "rabbit rabbit" the first day of every month. It reached Twitter Trend status in June 2009
- In some areas in Georgia, particularly in the Atlanta area, many people have begun saying "wabbit wabbit" as another variation.
- In central Pennsylvania, the custom is to say "Rabbit" last thing before going to sleep on the last day of the month, and to say it again first thing on the first day of the month.
- In northern New England, it is sometimes customary to say "rabbit rabbit" at the beginning of a new day (00:00), although this isn't considered to have the impact of saying it upon the start of a new month.
- For luck, the following must be spoken before noon on the first day of the month: "Rabbits Hot, Rabbits Cold, Rabbits New, Rabbits Old, Rabbits Tender, Rabbits Tough, Rabbits I've had enough." (Origin UK, possibly London, Hampshire or Derbyshire.